Wednesday, March 28, 2007

What I Learned Today (so far)

I learned that, where I live now, you can accidentally fall asleep at 2-something in the morning, wake up in a panic at 5:25am, make a 6:30am on-time flight out of town, and have your bag arrive in your destination city (after a connection, even!) as you do. I don't owe Continental an apology yet, but I am a little impressed.

I also learned that this gentleman is in Washington, DC, and that he has a tuxedo with him. I know this because he was on the second leg of my trip here. Who wants to touch me?

I mean, other than Big Oob. You freak.
I have tried to write the recap of my brief time with several friends from Redc0ats on my way to Nashville last Sunday. But every time I try to write it, I am either interrupted or the entry becomes this long monologue about drummers. And because I am leaving town yet again in five hours, this simply will have to wait.

DC Wed-Fri. NY Fri-Tues.

N.P. - J0hn Adams: "On the Transmigrati0n of S0uls"

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Thpartanburg Thunrithe

Of all places in the world to see a pretty sunrise, it was here (and it was quite pretty). This was stop number four of seven on my weekend trip more-or-less-south and more-or-less-east. I head back to Nashville in an hour or so, and hopefully I will miss the traffic that I have managed to hit every other place I have been over the weekend. I must have pissed off the God of Travel.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Continental's Monumental Incompetence or Incontinental

As you know, I recently travelled to New York City for work. Because of the location of my accomodations, it only made sense for me to fly into Newark-Liberty International Airport. Continental Airlines holds a monopoly on non-stop flights from Nashville to Newark, and thus I had no reasonable option other than to fly Continental. It was a small scale disaster.

On March 14, 2007 I arrived at the Nashville International Airport for my 4:15 PM flight. I proceeded directly to my gate, where a sign indicated that the flight was delayed - nothing more, nothing less. I asked the gate agent what time the new departure would be, and he replied that it would be 5:35 PM. Being unfamiliar with (and thus not very trusting of) this airline, I bought a barbecue sandwich and waited in the gate area for further news. In the mean time I phoned the person I was meeting at Newark and let him know that I would be late.

At around 4:00PM, the gate agent announced that the captain had decided to board the flight at 4:30PM. Promptly at 4:35PM, board we did. I assume that everyone who held a boarding pass got on the flight, even though many had been told that we wouldn't be departing for another hour.

After boarding the plane, the captain's voice came over the speaker system and explained that one of the various control centers (I think it was Newark's ground control) had forced the delay by assigning us a late wheels-up time in order to manage the traffic in Newark. He informed us that, in spite of this late time and in spite of the previously announced delay, that we would be pulling away from the gate immediately in the hope that we would get some sort of reprieve for being ready to go. We didn't, and we sat on the ground, fifty yards away from the gate, for an hour and fifteen minutes.

I thought that was poor judgment. I had no idea.

On Sunday, March 18 I arrived at Newark-Liberty International for my 2:20PM return flight to Nashville at 10:30AM because of a friend's 1:00PM flight to Atlanta. I went to the gate, picked up a book, and awaited the pre-flight activity at the gate area.

At about 1:30, I overheard a conversation that a gentleman near me was holding on his mobile phone. I gradually gathered that he was speaking with a representative of Continental Airlines regarding his flight that had just been cancelled. I then further calculated that he was confused about the status of his flight, as a Continental Customer Service [sic] automated call system had called his mobile phone to notify him of his flight's cancellation, while the aiport information screens and the screen at his gate indicated that his flight was on time. I then realized that he was trying to get to Nashville.

Gradually, all around me, passengers began to pick up their phones. Tones of voice became more heated, and the phrase "I realize that this is not personally your fault, but" became a cliché. I received no phone call, as I hadn't provided my mobile number (for this reason) to the airline and I knew that I would be early to the airport. I assumed that the monitors and signs in the airport would update the status of the flight, and that I could always ask a gate agent if something was in question. Alas, 1:50 arrived and the sign at the gate insisted:

3134 - Nashville
2:20 PM

The "Continental Departures" screen indicated the same thing.

To make matters worse, the kiosk in front of the sign where a gate agent would normally answer questions and solve problems stood empty, as it had been since I arrived at the gate two-and-one-half hours earlier.

Finally, at 2:18pm a Continental employee arrived. She did not, however, address our concerns or answer our questions. She simply said, "Attention in the gate area. Continental Flight 3134 with service to Nashville has been cancelled. Please see a representative at Customer Service near gate 103 for assistance." When asked why we were just being informed about the cancellation when we could have been standing in line for 45 minutes finding a way home, her response was short and to the point: "I don't know anything about the Nashville flight other than that is cancelled. This gate is servicing the flight to Grand Rapids and you will have to go to customer service for questions regarding Nashville.

When I arrived at customer service this was the view ahead of me.

This was the view behind me.

After clearing the wall and making my way out of the concourse and into the customer service area proper, this was the view.

Two - two - representatives present at the customer service area to help resolve the problems that existed because Continental doesn't watch the weather report. Wow, guys! Did you think maybe you might need some more help on a weekend when people had been stranded in town since Friday?

After waiting in line around ninety minutes, I arrived at the front only to be informed that the earliest they could get me out was 7:15pm the following night. Of course, Continental also claimed that this was "beyond their control" and thus would be providing no meals or accomodations for me. Bear in mind here that the weather event was on Thursday night and Friday. This was Sunday.

Judging by their record so far in my travels with Continental, I didn't anticipate any argument involving logic, good sense, or customer satisfaction to resonate with any of the airline employees. I accepted the 7:15 flight the next day, called Oob, and went to find my luggage.

The baggage claim level looked like the aftermath of a first responder's drill. Bags lay on any available real estate, with no apparent rhyme or reason as to their grouping or location. Stranded passengers wandered through mob after mob of bags, looking for their belongings with little hope. Ocassionally, one might run across an airline representative who advised them of the location of their bags with their nose in the air. One agent responded to a reasonable complaint about our plight with the forceful retort, "We can't land on ice, sir." No shit, Patricia. You can't. You can watch the weather. You can plan for outages by putting the right crews and the right planes in the right cities. You can inform your passengers of their flight status by way of visual cues and human communication within a reasonable period of time following your knowledge of operational changes. You can station security personnel in the baggage claim area to prevent bags from being stolen. You can provide me with a customer service representative that doesn't give me lip or deny any culpability for the promise you have broken. But you don't. "We can't land on ice, sir." Southwest Airlines you most certainly aren't.

These pictures don't begin to do it any justice, but here is the baggage claim area in Concourse C of Newark-Liberty International Airport around 4:30PM on Sunday March 18.

The woman in white here is the wife of the chancellor of a major university in Nashville. She didn't stay as calm as I did, and I don't blame her one bit.

The good news is that Oob was right there to pick me up. She took me to dinner in Hoboken, where I learned about the best view of New York City ever. Again, the picture doesn't even come close. Then she gave me a couch to sleep on, a place to shower, a toothbrush (Continental kept that too), a ride back to the airport, a tour of her part of the world, and great company to tide me over.

On Monday, little changed about Continental's service. At the very least, however, their planes were moving. After failing to get on the 2:20 flight that day, I did make the early evening flight and finally arrived home twentysomething hours after my original planned return.

I have to fly Continental again next week, and I'm not looking forward to it. Their atrocious service is a prime example of why the legacy airlines are losing money while the airlines that provide great service at a low price are in the black. Thanks Continental. Thanks for reminding me why I fly Southwest and JetBlue (yes, JetBlue!).

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

New York

I am being terribly dramatic by saying this, but it really is the way I feel about the city. I think many people (especially those from "Middle America") feel for much of their lives as though they have been missing something from the beginning. I think a big part of that something is New York. You can talk about the diversity, the history, the busy-ness (not a word!), the amazing food, the overwhelming stimuli... you can talk and hear about it all you want, but I don't think you begin to understand it until you have experienced it at least a little bit.

I had been to NYC once before on a basketball band trip to Philadelphia in 2004. On an off day and a whim, our driver agreed to take us to the city. My five hours there were only enough to whet my appetite and get me through the NBC Studios Tour.

My purpose in going this time was to become familiar enough with the city to escort groups who are travelling there in the future. Although this is only on the books once more this year (in a week and a half), I am told that it will become frequent beginning next year. Based on most of my experience this time around, that will be just fine.

I arrived Wednesday evening to relatively balmy temperatures. Thursday morning, my boss and I cabbed it to Liberty State Park and met the arriving students for boat trips to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

At about the time we left Liberty Island for the buses in New Jersey, the rain began to fall and the wind began to b-low (This is for Gunner, who still thinks blogs should be called "b-logs"). We got the students back to the hotel and into their rooms, and by 5:45 P.M. had them headed into the city for Phantom of the Opera. Because I will see it next week, I skipped it this time around and braved the weather to run errands in midtown Manhattan.

As the students sauntered out of the show, the wind became particularly fierce (worse than most Chicago winds I remember) and the rain started feeling more like ice.

I boarded the bus soaked from head to toe and shaking like a wet dog (which I guess, in a way, I was), thanks to the dead $7 umbrella and the falling temperature. We headed back to Jersey, expecting a few hours of acceptable weather on Friday in spite of the thickening of the raindrops.

We were disappointed. As we boarded the buses Friday morning there were already a couple of inches of snow and sleet on the ground. Of course, sitting at the hotel all day was not an option. So into the city we traipsed at all of 20 miles per hour. We dropped the kids off for their day long tour of the city, and we took our own walk/cab tour of Manhattan.

I was knocked out by St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Looking east toward Times Square from the eighth floor of the Marriott Marquis.

Looking west, just for Russ, from the eighth floor of the Marriott Marquis.

Who ya' gonna call?

We met the kids at O'Casey's (E 41st near the library) for a pre-St. Patty's day Irish dinner, sans whiskey.

It was here that I realized that one of our lead bus drivers was Garrison Keillor.


Unfortunately the roads had gotten bad enough that said driver felt that it was only safe that we skip the Empire State Building and head to the hotel immediately. He was right.

Saturday morning, the kids checked out of the hotel and we headed to the Empire State Building. It was a perfect day to go up, except that you had to stay inside because of the ice (I am told that it's a hell of a fall).

Looking downtown. Six years ago, the WTC would have dominated this picture.

Looking uptown. Rockefeller Center is in front of you, with Central Park just beyond and to the left.

The kids were performing in the St. Patrick's Day Parade, so we dropped them off and headed uptown to the end of the parade. Traffic was terrible for a Saturday because 5th Avenue was closed. That gave us time to enjoy the West Side and Central Park covered in snow.

After arriving at the end of the parade, we played a long game of Hurry Up and Wait. It was cold and windy as balls.

After the parade, we took the kids to South Street Seaport where they ate dinner. My boss and I headed to Times Square to get out of the cold, where we ran into Alan and Ashley. It's amazing how that keeps happening (I also heard from the Maleys, but we couldn't get together).

The next morning, began an entirely different saga which I will detail later. But it involves the horrible customer "service" of Continental Airlines, a phone call in the middle of the night from a (gasp!) sober person, an arrival in Nashville that was thirty hours later than planned, and the very generous hospitality of Oob.

Monday, March 19, 2007

I'm back from NYC, and I am worn out. Many stories and many pictures... tomorrow. Just wanted you to know that I'm alive.

Monday, March 12, 2007


And if you haven't identified where you have seen Nadia from 24, look at the girl in red.


Come on! Baby, don't you wanna go?

I am home and worn out from Chicago. Here are pics from the remainder of the trip.

I managed somehow to omit this picture of a lego man sitting on a bench outside the Lego Store from my Friday collection. It just seemed photo-worthy, so here:

Saturday, we took a trip up the Sears Tower. While I took several pictures, none of them really does the view any justice. Also, none of them replicates the feeling of the building swaying in the wind. I wonder if people who work there ever get used to it.

This is a thawing Lake Michigan from the 103rd floor of the tower.

After a tour of the city, we ended up at Millenium Park. One of the coolest features of the park is this piece of art. I seized the opportunity for a skewed picture of myself. I'm the one on the middle left, wearing the blue jacket and in need of a good stretching.

Late that afternoon, we wound up at the Navy Pier for dinner. I finally walked all the way to the end.

Last but not least, I took fifty high school students to hear the Chicag0 Symph0ny. In the midst of hearing some Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven 5, I took the following unauthorized picture.

As I was walking out of the concert, I ran into (of all people) J0hn Lynch (the newly appointed Direct0r of Bands at my alma mater) and Amy Kn0pps (old friend via Knight). We spoke briefly and then I had to get back to work. It stuns me how small the world is.

Sunday morning, they loaded a bus. Five minutes later I boarded a shuttle for Midway and was home by 1:00pm. It was then that I learned that my parents were in Nashville making an offer on a piece of land. I went to see it, and it is beautiful. This is a picture of what their front porch view would look like if it rested on a fuzzy and incredibly enlarged version of my finger.

Work and hopefully a little time off of my feet over the next two days. NYC Wednesday.

Friday, March 09, 2007

More 3x5's

Full Day 2 Pics, with a few well-chosen words...

That is a view down the side of the U-505, which was the first and only German submarine the U.S. captured intact during WWII. The story is awesome, and the tour of the inside of the craft is surreal.

Three shots from the Magnificent Mile, including the scenic Chicago River just after the rain began. The kids (and thus I) had lots of free time in the city today. If you've not done that here before, I must say it is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend it.

That would be me, putting on my hat at this establishment in attempt to change the karma of the Dawgs game this evening. Alas, it was in vain and I, in the process, looked like more of a fool than normal.


PS - I am around a person or two who needs to take lessons from Mike Knight in not saying something when you don't really have anything to say.

PPS - Pokey? I propose we change the nickname of all notoriously single males to "Jackie."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

See that?

That is a picture of part of Chicago, with Lake Michigan - er, a frozen Lake Michigan - in the foreground. Brrr.

Wicked tonight.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


• I have been caught. I tried to blog from my laptop, and Google caught me trying to use old Blogger. I "upgraded" just now.

• My brother and I came up with two new rules for Disney parks, to which violation would result in expulsion from the park for the remainder of the day:

1. No backing up.
2. No walking without watching where you're going.

• Speaking of rules, I propose one for the airport. When talking on a cell phone you must either face a wall or window, or you must walk. This either will avoid your conversation's intrusion into my ability to think clearly, or will at least render same fleeting.

• I think I creep most people out when I meet them, even when I'm sober. I don't really know why.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

See ya real soon!

As promised, here is a brief recap of my recent trip to The Most Magical Place on Earth.™

I mentioned before leaving that Walt Disney World is a place that I like a lot more than I would readily admit... just as I would not readily admit to consciously watching a movie starring Meredith Baxter Birney, thinking that Hugh Grant is underrated, or making a "mean souffle." But I do like the place, if for no other reason because of the memories it kicks around.

We stayed at the Wilderness L0dge. While the property is very nice, every glimpse of my family in the context of the thematic center of the hotel made me feel like I was in a Very Brady something. For the record, staying at a Disney resort is the way to go. I won't do it another way again if I don't have to.

The first full day was spent at the Magic Kingd0m. Predictably, I headed here first with my Dad, brother, and his five-year-old son.


This was taken in the exact spot where my father spent one hour talking a crying Brett into riding Space M0untain for the first time somewhere around 1979. If you know me, then you know I was scared for my life through the entire entry line. You also know that I enjoyed the ride so much that I had to be dragged off of it after riding it five times. I rode it six times this past weekend as well. And so goes my entire life.

The FantasyLand basics followed, as did Mickey's PhilHarMagic (which didn't impress me as much as I had been led to believe it would). Before you knew it, it was 1:30 and my Mom and sister-in-law were ready to nap and take the 20-month old back to the hotel. The would-be men kept the older boys, and took them with us on Splash M0untain and Big Thunder M0untain. By the time this was over, everyone but me was all, "We're tired and nauseated." And I was all, "Come on. You drove eight hours to nap in a hotel room?" And they were all, "Yeah." And I was all, "Fine, I'll go ride Space M0untain again. And I'll take my own damn picture in front of the castle. See ya."


And I did. The rest of the evening was sorta blah.

Day Two found us at the Studios as the park opened. I don't think that park has aged well at all. I had forgotten how campy the live shows were... ugh. But two cool things came out of this day. One was the Aer0smith Rock-'n'-R0ller C0aster. Possibly the best coaster I have been on. It just needed to be about twice as long (that's what sh... never mind). The other great thing was that E-S.P-N: The Weekend was taking place while we were there. So while the rest of my family was watching some puppet cartoon shit, I was watching the broadcast of Sp0rtscenter from behind the anchor desk.


The woman on the right is her. The seated guy in the blue shirt is him. When I asked, he didn't seem to want to discuss the 1/1/00 Outback B0wl. I didn't understand.

(Edit: At this point in the process of blogging, I am getting sleepy. After reading it back, the rest of this entry sucks. Grazi.)

A rainy evening put a damper on our return trip to the Magic Kingd0m. But my dad and I capped the evening off nicely back at the ranch, each of us enjoying one not-so-low calorie Mickey Bar. My favorite memory of being a child at DisneyW0rld was trying to eat one without getting ice cream all over me. That memory makes them taste a lot better than they really are.

Day Three was Epc0t day. S0arin' was amazing, as was Test Track. Mission Space is fine, but no one should have died as a result of it. It just isn't as intense as they scare you into believing it is.

After dinner, my brother and I headed back to the Magic Kingd0m one last time to relive our childhood habit of riding the same coaster over and over again when the park is all but empty (We also had a Mickey Bar.). I knew things weren't quite the same when, after three rides on Big Thunder M0untain and three on Space M0ountain, we both complained that our feet were hurting.


The next morning, I was on a plane for Nashville, and by 3:00 PM was working and already suffering withdrawals.

Chicago tomorrow. I'll try to write.