Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What I Did On My Summer Vacation (With! Hyper! Hyper! Links!)

Technically, I was not vacationing.  I was working, but I went to Jersey City, NJ to train some of my work peeps about the application for which I'm a subject matter expert.  Incidentally, I feel like a complete douche when I call myself a subject matter expert, but I'm not as much a douche as people who call an SME a smeeeeeee.  It's not a word! It's an acronym! Don't do that!  Ess. Emm. Eeee.

I worked on a powerpoint ahead of time, deleting and restarting it with the kind of vigor that only an overthinking neurotic nutjob possesses.  Maybe this is unique to me, but formatting the slides and taking just the right snippet of a screenshot takes me far longer than composing the text, but in the time I fiddle with the fonts and sizes and colors I continually redesign my topic flow and it's just a hot mess of crazylady.  Midway through presenting it, I was asked to redo my syllabus.  So I am taking the half-assed final version of ppt and trying to make it into a comprehensive document with a table of contents and everything.  I am completely serious when I say that I will be needing a med check.  Soonish.

The limo came for me at 5:30 am last Monday.  This was my first ride in one that didn't go to a funeral.  So that was a nice change, though I am pretty confident the retail purchase price of the car was very close to being the cost of my entire house.  I got to the airport at 5:48, the recommended 2 hours ahead of flight time. The airline sucked so badly I got to wait over an hour and 20 minutes just to check my bag.  Fortunately, the TSA decided I had an honest face and sent me right through the line.  Just so you know, you have to remove laptops from laptop bags and put them in their own plastic bin to go through the machine.  Everyone seems to have a dell.  I had a purple sticker on mine, courtesy of Chuckles.  I am not sure how the other 3 dell owners figured out who belonged to which computer.  So get yourself a distinctive little sticker for your laptop!

Right around the time boarding was to start, the pilot came through the door where the plane docs to the building and set off the alarm.  Ten minutes of shrill, ear splitting, skin crawling Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. .

It does not inspire confidence when your pilot can't help but set off the alarm.  Nor does it inspire confidence that the airline has not entrusted them with permission to turn the damned thing off.

Eventually, the nice folks of the TSA made it stop and then we boarded the 'plane'.  Please note my use of snicker quotes.  One seat, aisle, two more seats. That's the width.  Nineteen rows of seats.  I guess when it comes to planes, I'm a size queen.  Let me back up, I have not flown in the Brave New World.  My previous flight was March of 2001.  I was a bit of a basket case.  I talked to strangers in the airport.  I checked and rechecked for my ID, my boarding pass, my knitting, my book, my other book.  I don't know how I thought I'd get to that much in a nonstop flight from Omaha to NJ.  Clearly I underestimated the amount of time I'd devote to reading the safety pamphlet, clutching the armrests, and clenching my jaw to avoid vomiting up a cup of tea, a 16 oz breve (with 4 shots of espresso), and a can of coke.  In retrospect, I would not advise that nervous fliers mainline caffeine until they hit a level of tweakiness comparable to a monkey on crack.   (I can quit any time I want.  I just don't want to quit.)  The plane did a little more bobbing and weaving than I like when I'm up above the cloud layer.  I compulsively looked at other passengers to see if anyone else was panicking.  Turns out I was the token nutbar.

When I got to NJ, I was able to get my bag straight away and my next driver appeared to need directions to my office.  I could not  give them.  Even if I lived in JC, it would be a pretty slim chance  I could give directions.  My sense of direction is somewhat less accurate than that of Christopher Columbus.  If I had set off to discover a spice route, we'd have found penguins. We eventually got there and when I got up to my temporary desk and said hello to all the people I normally talk to only on the phone, I realized I was completely fucking knackered. I put in a pathetic attempt at work that afternoon.  Everyone was amazed that I was even shorter than they expected.  Still it was good to see my fellow testers, my environment engineers, and the developers. 

When the day was done, I took my first ever ride on light rail!  Matt walked me to the hotel, since I was sort of weaving with fatigue and couldn't get my sense of direction. I checked in at the hotel and found they'd put me in a suite.  AND IT WAS SWEET.  It was! The outer room was a sofa/chair/tv/dorm fridge sort of set up.  I had total dominion over the remote! Just past a set of French doors, I had 2 full sized beds to pick from, both overlooking a lot of tall, sparkly buildings and looking into an immaculate bathroom with a dry toilet seat.  It's the simple things in life that bring me happiness.  Oh, and there was a second tv and remote!  I got there just before 6, had a mediocre chicken piccata in the restaurant and went upstairs.  You know what I did?  I did what I had looked forward to since I booked my flight and room.  I DEPANTSED!  Free! Free from the tyranny of pants!  I tried to sign onto the internet, which was $12.95 for 24 hours, and yet so slow I couldn't stream an episode of Suits from USA network's site.  Don't judge!  Gabriel Macht has La Voce. He could grow a hunchback and I'd still listen to him read the phone book. I gave up on internet after about 15 minutes of tomfoolery. Then there was some non streaming tv watching.  By 9:20 eastern, I was nearly unconscious.  I snuggled into the bed on stage right and made sense of the 5 pillows. That bed was like being snuggled by angels and the baby Jesus.  I slept through until 6:30 when my alarm went off.  Probably the last time I slept like that was farther back than my last airplane flight.

I walked to the office on Tuesday and proceeded to annoy pretty much everyone by being perky and happy and shit.  I felt like I was standing outside myself! Who is this manic woman?  I don't know but she's wearing my underpants!  After proving to be too stupid to connect a laptop to a projector, I taught the basics of order management and then went for a Mexican lunch with my boss and one of my students.  I only wish I hadn't gone to JC during Ramadan so that my teammates could come along.  I never feel like I'm really connected to people until we eat together.  And eating alone feels wrong, like when I've accidentally left Bakers with a case of soda under my cart that I didn't pay for. Tuesday afternoon I worked on a project of mine, worked on documentation, and had a lovely chat on IM with Jon B, who is in yet another office.  He had restaurant recommendations for me, Light Horse Tavern and a Cuban place, but he  couldn't recall the name.  The next thing I knew, everyone was gone and it was just shy of 6pm.  So I went outside and I walked.

I walked to to the water, where I could see NYC across the Hudson.  I walked past the Memorial for the Katyn Massacre of 1940.  I walked past the memorial for the citizens of Jersey City who died in the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  I walked all over the waterfront, toting my laptop bag for good measure.  I wanted, more than anything that evening, to get a really stellar picture of the Statue of Liberty for my dad.  She sort of hides in and out of the scenery as you walk along the shore.  It's like being in an Escher sketch!  Eventually, I was at the ferry landing and the brochure said they arrive every half hour for trips around the harbor.  It was 7:49 and my cell battery was on red.  I seriously considered rolling the dice and taking the 8pm ferry, knowing I'd be walking back to my hotel at 8:30, in the dark essentially.  Remember my sense of direction? Yeah, I called my friend, Matt, thinking he'd yell some sense into me but he didn't pick up and I left a message. The father of the nice family on the landing said to me "Honey! Where you from?"

"Nebraska," says I.  "I want to get a better picture of the Statue of Liberty!"

"Oh honey!  Don't be telling your business on the cell phone in public! And don't even think about walking home from here alone at night!"

My dad's paternal grandfather came through Ellis Island twice.  The first time, he didn't realize that when he went home to visit, he'd get conscripted into the Italian army and almost die of a saber wound. The second time he elected to get as land locked as possible I guess.  On my dad's mom's side, they go back to the revolutionary war, so not a lot of Ellis Island research to be done there.  I wish I knew more about the immigration history of my mother's family. Still, in what other country could I be born?  I'm Italian, Irish, German and WASP-Converted to Catholic.  I'm married to a German/English/French/Lakota man and we have the two best sons ever. So the Statue of Liberty is one of my favorite ladies.  That's right, that supposedly rare bird-- the Liberal Patriot.  We're not all that rare, just so you know. 

So I for once did the sensible thing.  I walked back to my hotel, hoping I'd find Light Horse Tavern.  Failing that, I stopped to get a soda along the way.  Good, but not tart enough! I got back around 8:20 and figured that I had 2 choices, eat in the hotel restaurant again or walk to the mall and find a snack.  I decided to change into a non-sweaty shirt and walk to the mall.  On the way to the mall,  I saw this place, Azucar! Just like Jon B said. I'd never had Cuban food before, so I went in and ordered this!  (Why the exclamation points?  Just doing my part to put the 'hyper' in 'hyperlink'.  You're welcome.)  Beef empanadas, plantain chips, shelled mussels in saffron and white wine broth and the best mojito I've ever had. It was an excellent balance of lime and mint, with a stick of real sugar cane.  It hit me just right.    I ate nearly everything.  The mussels were excellent.  The empanadas were very good.  The plantains were good, but considering how people rave about them, I was somewhat let down.  I walked home full, buzzed, and quite content with my lot in life.  I read a chapter in my ridiculous but entertaining book, called the boys for good night murmurings and despite knowing the dog was in a deep depression without me, I once again fell into a deep, satisfying sleep. 

Wednesday morning, something happened that almost never happens, I woke up before the alarm but not of a nightmare.  I am more shocked than you, I promise.  I walked to work and intentionally smiled at everyone I passed.  I think it made people nervous. Har!  Take that New Jersey!  My morning sort of got away from me and I ended up sprinting out at 1:30 to get some lunch before I had to teach.  I got truck food! First time ever!  I had curried lamb and saag paneer with rice.  When I got to my desk, intending to hoover it down, I choked on the second bite.  Before I could stop myself I said "There's a bone in my meat!" Hilarity ensued.  Then my friend, Phil, to whose house I was going for dinner said "You're having Indian for dinner!"

"One billion Indians eat Indian food three times a day every day! This American can eat it twice today!"  I thought it was a good response.

"Who'd you get that from?" asked one of the managers.

"I dunno.  Some guy."

"Some Guy! Some GUY? You don't know who?"

"No.  Because. I. Don't. Know. Anyone. Here." I only barely managed to avoid adding the words "WELL DUH" to my response.  Filtering! It works if you work it!

Class went better on Wednesday.  I talked about balances for much longer than the attention span of my students errr spanned.  What can I say, I love the meeting of math and money and on the fly calculating!  After class, it was off to dinner.

Phil is a bald faced liar when he says his house is a wreck! It is far less wrecky than my house was at move in.  And it's much less wrecky than a lot of houses we looked at last year.  Mrs. Phil was a sweetheart. And the food was awesome.  So delicious-- Indian dinner followed by Tiramisu. Nomtastic! I hope sometime I can cook for my JC friends.  Preferably I'll be in a kitchen bigger than a breadbox.

Thursday dawned with no plans for the evening. It was Charlie's birthday back in Omaha and I was a little weepy when I woke up and wasn't home with him on his special day.   I went in to the office, did some work, taught some validation rules and process stuff. Then it was quitting time and Matt totally punked out due to a pinched nerve.  I guess some people have reservations about mixing prescription painkillers and booze. Who knew?  So my awesome boss, Jim D offered to take me into THE CITY.  New York City! I had never been.

We walked toward the water intending to take the Path train to the financial district.  I suggested we take a ferry, since I'd missed it the other night.  As we got on the ferry it sort of. . . lurched.  I wondered if this was such a good idea, since I get sick playing Mario Kart and all. I figured though that the ferry ride wouldn't take long, the harbor wasn't that big.  GUESS WHAT?  About 2/3 of the way across the Hudson Bay, the Coast Guard came out in their inflatable boats (with machine guns!) and the NYPD harbor cops came out and they Stopped The Ferry.  We started going around in circles.   And around. And around.  With a brief interlude were we stopped going in circles and instead backed into a  pier across from our landing slip.  No ferries could  go forward. No ferries could go back. President Obama was landing at the helipad for a fundraiser dinner. . . at some point.  So I hauled my knitting out of its ziplock bag and tucked it into the side of my laptop bag.  Then  I prepped the ziplock to receive a hearty shower of barf.  Jim D suggested I go stand out by the rail.  I went out and the boat continued to lurch in such a way that I thought that side was likely to result in splashback.  So I went back in and crossed to the other side and hung my head out like a pathetic loser.  The ferry captain's assistant asked me "You gonna barf?"

"I dunno. Maybe."

"I been doin' this 20 years.  I never barfed."

"Well, we don't have ferries where I'm from."

"Where you from?"


"Don't you have water there?"

"Well, yes, but we have bridges. The Missouri is not wide enough for ferries."

"Well, just let if fly.  There's been worse stuff in the Hudson.  It's just fish food."

" . . please. . .stop talking."  Font shrunken to reflect my patheticness. Patheticity?

I went back in and clenched my jaw.  In all, we went around in circles for over 40 minutes. Then Jim D called and texted everyone about what a lamentable dumbass I am.  While he did that I happily paid $1.50 for a can of coke to settle my stomach.  And then! WE WALKED!  To the subway!

I took the subway for the first time where I flaunted all convention and talked to strangers in my usual cheerful, oblivious manner.  I think I freaked out a group of teenaged African American dudes.  That is like a reversal of nature or something.  Here is me on the subway, trying to look like a disgruntled resident of New York.  How awesome is that laptop bag? In my opinion it is totally awesome.  It is loud and plasticky, like the davenport of many Italian Nanas!

So we walked to Wall Street!  I saw the NYSE! Jim D took this pic of me by the Bull on Wall Street.  And this one by the lion in front of the New York Public Library.  And this one in Times Square. Times Square is like Disneyland for grownups.  I saw the memorial to the most decorated Army cleric ever, Father Duffy.  And we went to Roxy Deli, which has no website, but does have cheesecake so good it's a religious experience.  We walked for close to 3 straight hours after the subway. I saw Radio City Music Hall and 42nd Street, but didn't get great pics of them.  At last, we got on the bus, where one last New Yorker got to be surly to me, an old lady who proclaimed when I didn't move back "I HAVE A CART." I was having too good a time to snarl at her.  Now though? Dear New York:  I can't reach that overhead bar so step off, I'm not moving back.  We took the Path train UNDER THE RIVER to get back to NJ.  I got back to my hotel at about 9:30, feeling a little guilty that poor Jim D still had to commute home for almost another 2 hours.  He worked from home on Friday, so he slept in.

Friday, I woke up sad my trip to Jersey was  over.  Next time I'm bringing my good camera, and coming in on Sunday so I can see more stuff.  I consoled myself by having an iced coffee and an old fashioned from Dunkin Donuts.  The coffee at the grocery store is not as good as in the DD.  Must be that Hudson water.  I didn't get as much work done as I wanted, but the car came for me at noon and I was glad to be on my way back to the monkeys and Jason and the dog. The dog and Charlie gave me the best welcome home ever.  Augie and Jason were glad to see me too, but nothing compares to a dog and his boy.

No comments:

Post a Comment