Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A long week of travel

Well, for a person who was in the hospital two and a half weeks ago with a heart problem, I'm certainly back to normal.

First and foremost: the cardiologist says that the tests are all normal. The nuclear imaging test was very good. Nothing is wrong, there was no damage and no heart attack, no coronary artery disease, nothing!. There was no apparent reason for my heart to kick up… it just did. But all I need to do is show up and talk to my GP and have her keep an eye on me.

I was incredibly disappointed to miss the STC Board meeting, which from all reports was indeed as dramatically progressive as I'd expected it to be. When I signed up with the STC Board last May, I'd have given us no better than even money of being in a recognizable and viable shape within 5 years. This year, I'd put our odds at 10-1 in favor of continuing survival. Things have changed and massively improved. We have a new Executive Director who was introduced at the conference in Las Vegas. And there have been lots of positive changes to the organization that will become increasingly visible over the next year. I'm particularly interested to see what the new conference format is going to be like. (Note for STC members: are you as tired as I of having gone to the Same Old Conference for the last 10 years or more? Things are going to be completely different in 2007 in Minneapolis from what I'm seeing.)

I was also greatly saddened to miss seeing a number of old friends at this conference. They missed me, too. One person even volunteered to play the banjo and sing strange songs to pretend she was me, which I'm sure would've been much more attractive, certainly.

Well, there'll be a hot time in Minneapolis in 2007, I guess.

My heart was decreed to be "normal" (and if there's just one thing in your life that you'd want to be normal, I'm betting that your heart would be right at the top of the list for what you'd like that one thing to be). I'm reminded of Clement Freud's comment about 30 years ago that he'd only voted for one person in his life, a man who'd been institutionalized at one point and then had gotten out, which required him to pass a review board of three psychiatrists who gave him a certificate of mental health. Clement Freud said that it was something to be able to vote for a politician who had a document proving he was sane.

Sunday, May 14th, was the Mother's Day concert at the Unitarian church. We sang with Byrdsong again (see the listing for the December concert to get an idea of what we did), doing a largely English Renaissance program this time--Wm. Byrd, John Dowland, and many others.

The concert started at 4:00pm. We kept going until 5:15pm, then we were done. The Babe and I took off straight for the airport, which is across town and out a bit. En route to the freeway, I dropped the Babe off at her acting class, then kept going. I got to the airport in plenty of time for a 7:45pm flight, schlepped my bags in to the airport, and got on a flight to Ontario, CA, to see my client in Lake Forest.

The problem is that Ontario's about an hour away from Lake Forest. The only reason that I went to Ontario instead of John Wayne Orange County airport is that You Can't Get There From Here. Eugene is so off the beaten path, there wasn't anything in the way of flights that would get me in to Lake Forest by 8:00am on Monday the 15th and still allow me to leave late enough to sing in the choir Sunday afternoon. It took a lot of work to find a flight into some area airport that I could then drive from, but I finally got something. Cost me extra money out of my pocket, but it was worth it: I'd have hated jacking up our choir director, who's truly a great guy.

I rented a car from Hertz this time and I may be doing this again. The service was wonderful, the car was fine, and I had absolutely no problems getting everything squared away. Which was good, I might add, because I was doing all of this at about 1:45 am Monday. I drove from Ontario over to Santa Ana without any great problems: the roads are nice and clear at that time of night. At one point, I looked down and discovered I was doing 95mph, which was disturbing--the California Highway Patrol is not forgiving of people flouting the laws so dramatically. I stayed at 80 or a little less all the rest of the way, but there was one idiot in a new pickup truck (pretty much a redundant statement, I grant you) who passed me doing at least 100. I kinda hoped he'd draw fire in case there were CHP patrol cars out there.

The four days I spent at the client's were fine. My boss is great. The products are very exciting. And I think I can do all of this in the time I've got. Mind you, I've also got a fair amount of work to do for Symantec doing training, but I've got my schedule set up so that I think I can manage this just fine.

I wrapped up Thursday afternoon and hit the road for Ontario directly from the client's office. I made it to the airport in plenty of time (good) and didn't even have bad traffic to deal with more most of the trip (better). The flight from Ontario to Las Vegas was uneventful. When I got to Las Vegas, I had a couple hours to kill until my flight took off. I fed money into the slot machines, which killed some time. Several of us were watching a chap who was making $200 last for quite a awhile on the dollar slots. Someone else came by and watched him for a few minutes, then figured he'd give the dollar slots a whirl. He dropped a $20 into one of the machines, hit the button, got three 7's and won $160. He said "I'm stopping here!" and cashed out and left. "What a prick!" we all said, with a smile.

I finally got home at 4:00am. Susan the Wonder Child picked me up at the airport (bless her!) and I curled up in bed for a few hours. We were theoretically getting an offer from the people for whom we'd been cutting a special deal for the house, but apparently there are some people you can't always do things for. They wanted a much better deal than they were ever going to get (including $15,000 off the sale price of the house and a few other things), so we told the realtor "No." (This was the gist of our response, anyway.) We cranked the price up to something reasonable and still cut them a deal, but I'm annoyed that their realtor couldn't pick up a clue: I'd told her that if they wanted a realtor and they wanted to pay her a commission on what we'd set up as a direct sale deal, then that was Not My Problem. Doesn't that sound unambiguous? I also told her that there was no room for a commission out of our pocket because we'd already given them the lion's share of the money on the direct sale, so our price was it. Nowhere in there did I say "And this is subject to negotiation." They were told that we were going to be away and if they wanted to respond or lock anything in, they had a very tight time frame… but we heard nothing by the time we left, so the house is officially On The Market.

Meanwhile, though, our new house is progressing swimmingly and it is truly a Thing Of Beauty, so I'm increasingly excited. There will be photos of all this when I'm not stuck with a 42K dial-up connection on-board ship, as I shall relate.

The Babe and I ran around, packed, did laundry, did errands, got the house straightened up for showing to people, and headed off to the Eugene airport at 3:00pm Friday. Our flight took us from Eugene to Medford, then to LA (without changing planes, thankfully). In LA, the plane was half an hour late, but we had had an hour to change flights, so we thought "Hey, no problem!"

Well, this was wrong. We flew to LA on Alaska and then transferred to an American flight for Miami. Where do we catch it? Oh, that's in Terminal 4 (we were in 3), so catch that shuttle bus. We did. It was rather alarming to see that we're on the runway. We knew this because there were signs that said "Yield to planes" and a couple of times we did. We finally got to the American Eagle terminal but we were then told that this wasn't it; we needed to leap on a second bus to get to where we really needed to go! Oy veh, time was running short.

But we got there in time, got on the plane (which was horribly cramped) and flew to Miami. I've had more comfortable flights, but we got there and didn't crash and we were on time, so WTF? The Babe's brother, Steve, and their cousin, Ruth (who lives in Miami), picked us up at the Miami airport and took us back to Ruth's townhouse. We hung out for a while and talked about the last week, then we all went back to bed.

We lunched with several other relatives at a nice Cuban restaurant in Miami and then headed off to the ship. Steve and Andy had already done an express boarding thing online so they just breezed through. We had had no time and hadn't gotten to it and so we had to stand in line. The process wasn't bad, though, just a bit tedious…and heavy, as I was carrying my shoulder bag crammed full of stuff, the laptop, which is terrifically heavy, and the garment bag carrying the tuxedo and the banjo. They gave us credit card sorta things that tied to my credit card (which the Babe had reminded me to phone so they knew to expect charges from the Eastern Caribbean and not freak out) and also provided identification and were also our door keys. And with that, we walked up the gangway and boarded the ship.


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