Archive for the ‘Road Trips’ Category.

Home, Once More

My Ohio State Marching Band Alumni has a “regular band”, a year-round group that plays concerts, parades, funerals, weddings and other special Buckeye occasions.  Of course, you have to live within driving distance of Columbus to participate, which definitely rules me ineligible as long as a private jet is beyond my means.

Last winter, however, I received a notification from them that they would be playing a parade and concert for the bicentennial of my hometown, Perrysburg, Ohio, and it got me thinking.

I moved away from Perrysburg in 1974 but, because my parents and grandparents lived out their lives there and I visited fairly frequently, there was always a sense that it was home (despite the fact that the bulk of my life has been lived in Seattle).  Once we moved my Mom out of our childhood home in 2013, however, nothing remained with enough gravitational pull to justify a destination-based trip back there..until the coalescence of a Bicentennial, TBDBITL (the OSU Alumni Band) and two brothers who apparently were also looking for a reason to hit the Burg once more.  My youngest brother also played in the OSU band, the OSU people responded affirmatively to our request to join them for the festivities, and our trip was on.

It seemed strange booking a hotel room in the town where I’d always just crashed at my parents’ place, especially since the hotel was less than a mile’s walk from there.  We arrived on a Thursday, walked around town a bit and dined at a pretty decent restaurant in “downtown” Perrysburg.

Although eclipsed by nearby Toledo in size, Perrysburg has always been an independent municipality and never a soulless suburb.  Its “downtown” stretch of independent retailers, however, suffered greatly over the last 2 decades, as mega-malls and big box retailers sucked away their customer base.  On this trip, for the first time in a long while, I observed a renaissance along the main drag, Louisiana Avenue.  For many of the venues, we could hardly walk through the front door.  Although inconvenienced, I was happy for them.

(Click to enlarge)

Our parade and concert was Saturday.  First would be the parade, and then the concert later in the afternoon.  The OSU band staged for the parade on the grounds of Elm Street Elementary, a block from (wife) Betsy’s childhood home, where my high school marching band used to rehearse on foggy fall mornings, hard by the building where my mother-in-law taught 3rd grade for 20 years.  As we waited to enter the parade, I spoke with an old friend, an OSUMB sousaphone player from my high school band who had lived up the street from me and had spurred me to a running regime in order to try out for the OSU band.  A running regime that I would carry on for 40 years.

The parade up the main street of town was so reminiscent of the Memorial Day parades our high school band played in.  Later, I saw our concert was setting up in view of the building where I attended Junior High, and right in front of the (long gone) Perry Dairy Bar, where I used to sneak off-campus for hamburger & french fry lunches.

I started to feel like I was in an alternate reality, one where I had never left town, where I recognized everyone on the street and knew their dogs’ names.  Could I envision myself satisfied with playing little bandbox engagements instead of the thrill of massive, raucous, bawdy urban Pride Parades in front of half a million screaming fans?  I gazed at the audience that was assembling, nibbling on picnic lunches and hailing neighbors, and then I espied my high school band director (Judy Justus) in the stands.  I left my seat in the trumpet section, ran over and gave her a hug.  The concert began, time slowed down and for a while I could imagine myself…content.

During the concert, they introduced folks in the band who had Perrysburg connections, including me.  After the concert, several people I’d known in high school, people I hadn’t seen in 50 years, came up and introduced themselves, and that only added to the feeling of alternate reality.

After the concert, my brothers, their wives and I paid a visit to a couple who live next door to our childhood home.  I’ve always enjoyed them and loved them for the support they provided for my parents in later years, and we had a good time catching up.  But our ulterior motive was to see what the new owners had done to our place.  Our friend/neighbor contacted the new owners, and we were awarded a tour of the extensively, but sensitively, remodeled residence.

My parents built the house and we moved in in 1961, signified by a Lincoln 1961 penny enmeshed in the concrete of our front sidewalk.  It was eerie to walk through the place.  They had blown out a back wall and built a modern kitchen and changed the interior floor plan in ways that our mom had often wished for.  Each time Mom would develop a plan, however, our dad would shake his head and say, “We can’t do that, that’s a bearing wall.”  The “bearing wall” cupidity we observed would have boggled our mom’s mind, in addition to pantsing our dad.  As we left, we saw that the front sidewalk had been rebuilt.  With a bit of trepidation, we walked to the end and saw..two pennies embedded in the new concrete: our original 1961 coin, and their 2016.  They will forever be our heroes.

(Click to enlarge)

As night fell, we headed west on River Road to visit old friends who had made their lives in Perrysburg.  As we entered their place, their music system was blaring OSU marching band songs that turned out to be on a record that I was playing on in 1971.  This never happens to me in Seattle.

We caught up with a lot of history, marveled at our friend’s opulent riverside digs, and I let the experience of a warm, fecund midwestern summer night soak in.  We said our good-nights in the cricket-and-tree-frog cacophony, with the river ambling picturesquely by, and it was strangely seductive.

But my morning flight from Detroit to Seattle emerged insistently on my phone, and that same raspy lozenge of - not discontent, exactly, but more of an Urge For Going - that spurred me west in 1974 hastened me inexorably to the airport, and on to my real home at the edge of the continent.

Autumn Adventure in Atlanta

Mrs. Perils and I returned to Atlanta a couple weeks ago to attend the LGBA (Lesbian & Gay Band Association) annual conference.  The conference is an occasion for musicians from member bands to congregate for an intense, but convivial, long weekend of music-making and fellowship.  Our Seattle-based Rainbow City Band hosted the conference in 2011, and we put nearly 300 musicians on the stage of the McCaw opera hall with awesome results.

When I saw that the 2013 conference would be in Atlanta, I leaped at the opportunity, as my baby brother lives in Alpharetta and I knew that my mom would be living in the area after we moved her down there from Ohio.  Ever since I joined the Rainbow City Band, I wished that my mom could attend a concert.  In fact, for a lot of my life I’ve experienced events like plays or concerts at least partially through the lens of “my mom would really like this” or, if I were a participant, “I wish mom could hear this”.  Of course, she’d heard us play with the TBDBITL OSU alumni band, but she’d never been able to hear my Rainbow City Band, and I thought that the Atlanta LGBA gig would introduce her to my late adult brand of music-making.  However, the onset of her terminal disease made this a remote possibility, and she died two weeks short of our performance.

Since all the arrangements had been made and tickets purchased, and because my brother and SIL were still willing to sacrifice their ears to the concert, we journeyed to Atlanta to participate.  It was a great decision.  My attraction to the Rainbow City Band, beginning with my first rehearsal, was its spirit and love of music, and the euphoria attending the Atlanta rehearsals and impromptu gatherings was infectious.

The weekend was pretty ambitious, as we were playing 11 pieces for a symphonic concert, plus 4 numbers for a marching band performance in the Atlanta Pride parade.  We arrived on Thursday afternoon, and had a music rehearsal that evening. Friday brought two more concert band rehearsals, then a marching band rehearsal in the evening.  Saturday morning, we had another concert band rehearsal, and returned to Georgia Tech for our evening concert.  Sunday morning we walked to the start of the Pride Parade in lovely weather and played for vociferous and enthusiastic crowds along the parade route.

Here’s a video I made from my SIL’s iPhone recordings of our concert, plus a recording I made of a marching band warmup:

And here’s a link to a page where all of the music we played can be heard.

While the busy schedule preoccupied me, and I was gratified that my brother and SIL seemed to genuinely enjoy the concert, I still had to reckon with the feeling of playing to an empty chair.  My mom would have loved this concert, my heart aches that she didn’t get to hear it.  I play the video and still want to call her to hear her reaction.

Later in the weekend, my brother and I went to our mom’s apartment to retrieve some items that required some heavy lifting.  It was so strange to go back to that stillborn domesticity, at once so familiar with the furniture of our childhood and the juicer I’d used to entice her waning appetite during my recent visits, versus the otherworldly absence of her resilient spirit.

I’m thinking it’s not over.  I’ll be playing to that empty chair as long as I play music.

Traveling Violation

(Click on image to enlarge)

I had a little automotive adventure in June that went something like this: I was driving home from a client’s on Aurora Avenue when someone came to a dead stop in front of me.  I stopped a couple of feet behind them, then tick…tick…tick…tick…BANG!  Someone plowed into me from behind, jamming me into the car in front of me (and involving two more cars ahead of us).

I’m pretty sure I didn’t lose consciousness; the first thing I remember after the impact is the acrid smell of the airbags and my reflection in the rear-view mirror with blood oozing out of my nose.  I was hyperventilating a little and chanting holyfuckholyfuckholyfuck.  This confirmed my long-held suspicion that I would die with a bolus of filthy language dripping off my tongue.  Unless you count what I was saying as prayer.  I’ve heard, and uttered, worse.

In the ensuing moments, the car would settle a bit, startling me with a feeling that I’d been hit again.  I tried my door, thinking perhaps I should get out of the car in case it caught fire, but the door wouldn’t budge.  I found my phone and thought about 911, but figured that would have already been massively covered, so I dialed Mrs. Perils:

“Well, I just got rear-ended on Aurora, so I think I’ll be a little late.”  It was a Tuesday, and we had band practice.
“So where are you?”
“Somewhere between the Battery Street tunnel and the Aurora Bridge.”
Then sirens started in the background and got louder and louder.  “I have to go now, the ambulance is here,” and I hung up.  In hindsight, I probably could have handled that better.

A first responder entered the car through the passenger door and started asking me about my injuries (my shins hurt a lot, my nose was tender and bleeding fitfully and my left side, where the shoulder strap dug in, hurt quite a bit).  He also asked a bunch of “who’s your daddy” questions to ascertain if I’d had a concussion.  Meanwhile, someone had managed to pry my driver’s-side door open with a screech and a clunk, and they proceeded to move me gingerly onto a gurney and strapped my limbs onto it, saying they were taking me to Harborview, the go-to trauma hospital in Washington.  I insisted that they grab my backpack from the car that contained my laptop and, within it, my entire terrestrial essence.  The first responder handed me off to the ambulance EMT, and thus began my VIP ride to Harborview.

As the ambulance started to roll, I received perhaps my most traumatic unpleasantness: they stuck an IV into my arm.  I hate needles, and I fucking hate IVs, but I wasn’t arguing.  They asked me again to recount my injuries (shins, abdominal pain, nose obviously malfunctioning), and posed more riddles designed to detect concussion: “How old are you?”  “63.  No, 62″ and, chagrined by my error, especially the rounding-up part, I recited my birthdate just to prove I had a tenuous grip on the facts.  “Oh, wow!”, he said, and I decided to take that as a compliment instead of a negative commentary on my condition.  Later, I learned that my accident had made the TV newsreels, with photos of my car that some of my co-workers were shocked to recognize, accompanied by something like the hospitalization of “a man in his 60s”.  Ouch, dude, that (sounds) harsh.

Meanwhile, I believe the EMTs were concerned that my legs might be broken, or at least need attention, and they broke out a pair of scissors and, without unstrapping me, cut off my jeans.  I was startled - it’s been a while since someone was that anxious to get my pants off.  Then, at some point, they were either making a CYA recording or talking to the Harborview ER people, and the guy said, “he’s mentating well.”  Mentating?  Did the collision somehow activate heretofore dormant ovaries?

We arrived at Harborview, and there was a flurry of activity as they attached monitors, asked more questions and determined where I was at on the live-or-die scale.  Then I spent long expanses of time just lying there.  Meanwhile, someone who identified herself as a “social worker” called Mrs. Perils and told her how and where I was.  In retrospect, this sounds like a great way to do things, rather than have a harried ER doc contact the either concerned or bereaved.  Mrs. Perils and our son then set out for Harborview.

Meanwhile, someone had come in and asked if I had health insurance, and I gave him my Group Health card and explained that auto insurance would most likely be paying the bill.  Not everyone must have gotten that memo, because a while later, a woman came by and said she was a “financial counselor”.  She understood that I did not have health insurance, and was there to discuss my options.  There I was, half-fucking-naked and bleeding from the shins and nose.  Wasn’t there a more appropriate time for this discussion?  I told her about the previous guy’s visit, and she moved on to more fruitful venues to apply her expertise.

A while later, I still was worried by my abdominal pain, more so than the stuff that was bleeding, and they decided to do a CT scan, and off I went to the Magic Donut.  They said it was a borderline call, but I was happy to know that I had no internal injuries, and I only evince a soft glow now when the lights are out.  About 5 1/2 hours after I arrived at the ER, they handed me a bottle of Ibuprofen and a tube of antibacterial ointment for my shins and sent me home.

I’m not sure why, but I just drove myself to a state of normalcy.  I missed a day and a half of work, and two days of trumpet practice (because I wasn’t sure how much pressure would start blood gushing out of my nose again).  But on the following Saturday I showed up and marched with Rainbow City Band in the Fremont Solstice Parade, we went to Ashland as scheduled, and my aches and pains have slowly dissipated.

Things are almost back to normal now. It turned out that my laptop got sorta-pretzeled while careening around my back seat.  It still booted, but the screen was toast.  I was able to extract my data and port it to a new Macbook.

(Click on image to enlarge)

I’ve missed a bunch of kayaking because my racks were sent with my 95 Accord to a junkyard 50 miles north of here that’s only open 8 - 5 M-F, and I haven’t been able to retrieve them.  After dithering for several weeks, I finally focused myself enough to find a car to buy on Craigslist, and so far I’m really happy with it.  For one thing, it’s the first car I’ve owned that has air conditioning that works.

So, did this experience involve any life-changing epiphanies?  Do I, as a result, cherish life, live every day as if it’s my last, post daily pictures of cute kittens to Facebook?  Sorta, but not really.  I find myself not following people as closely as I used to when I’m driving, and I simply will not answer my phone in the car.  But mostly, I’m the same driver and the same guy.  It is tempting to think that, now I’ve had my accident, I’m somehow innoculated and safe from harm for another 10 years or so, like a tetanus shot or a colonoscopy, but on a cerebral level I know the same thing could happen tomorrow.  Driving has become less of a virtual activity; I know now that I’m actually in the car, and not operating it from some remote location divorced from the physical consequences of mishaps.  Most of the time.

Playing Around

(Entrance to the Bowmer Theater)

We’re in Ashland, OR for our annual haj to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  Once again, my mom has flown in from Toledo to attend with us, and once again, the weather is so far hot & sunny, such a change from the cool & overcast spring we’ve had in Seattle.

One big glitch: On the day before our departure, I received an email from the Festival that they’d discovered structural damage to a central beam in the large indoor Bowmer Theater, and that it would be closed indefinitely.  This was a pretty large deal, since 4 of our 8 plays were scheduled to be performed there:

  • To Kill A Mockingbird
  • Measure for Measure
  • Imaginary Invalid (a Moliere)
  • August: Osage County (a contemporary play by Tracy Letts set in small-town Oklahoma)

We were left with:

  • Pirates of Penzance
  • Love’s Labors Lost
  • Henry IV, Part 2

all in the outdoor Elizabethan Theater, and:

  • Julius Caesar

in the small indoor New Theater.

Since my mom was already in town, and we already had our airfare to and lodging in Ashland paid for, there was no thought of canceling.

As events progressed, the Festival devised a way to stage the canceled plays in the cavernous old Armory building just up Oak Street from our lodging, so we lined up in the street Tuesday afternoon to see if we could get a seat for To Kill A Mockingbird.  As it happened, there were plenty of seats inside, all on folding chairs in neat rows in a huge auditorium.  There was a certain sense of disenfranchisement, since I had bought front-row tickets for all of our plays last November in the members’ presale, and our seats in the Armory were more than halfway back.  Still, kudos to the Festival for going outside the box to deliver the product.  And, the Armory performances are free to anyone who held tickets to the original performances; we got our choice of cash refunds or vouchers for future performances of any play, this year or next.  I selected vouchers, since I have a glimmer in my eye about another trip down here later in the year, after they (hopefully) have re-opened the Bowmer.

To Kill A Mockingbird

I had never read the book, nor seen the movie, so this was my first introduction to the story.  The production in the Armory was done without costumes, props or stage sets.  It opened with the full cast on stage, sitting on folding chairs in a semicircle, with an adult incarnation of Scout narrating.  As she was reminiscing about that fateful summer, actors would rise from their chairs and create a flashback tableau of dramatic action, and the voice would pass from the adult narrator to a pre-adolescent Scout.

As the production progressed, the actors involved in dialogue used an area about 10′ by 10′ to represent their interactions, and their strength of delivery did a lot to overcome the lack of visual context.

The story itself has two major plotlines: the first, the depiction of the Finch family and the development of Atticus Finch’s character as a father and citizen; the second, the civic and legal developments leading to the trial and its outcome.  To begin to appreciate either, it’s necessary to be able to place yourself in Depression-era, small-town Alabama.  This is where the lack of scenery and the first-rate production values of the Festival is quite apparent.  The surfeit of family sagas and courtroom drama in the cinema and on the screen in the ensuing decades overwhelms this work taken in its components; it would make an ordinary episode of Law & Order.  It really needs to be viewed through its temporal and geographical context.

What gives the story its spark is the collision of these two plotlines: the precipitous ripping of the Finch family from its comfortable niche near the top of the town’s social foodchain and making them the embodiment of all its resentments, armed only with a nascent moral carapace; and the journey of Jem and Scout from a mostly passive and credulous acceptance of the world as viewed through Atticus’ lens, to the crescendo of lurid and unvarnished images that are thrust upon them.

This last thread, the passage of the kids from Atticus’ protection and control, is almost lost in the hurly-burly of the trial.  It begins with their unbidden, perhaps forbidden, foray to the jailhouse to stand with Atticus, and extends as they assert themselves (as invited guests) to view the trial from the black folks’ gallery.

I’m curious now to read the book and join the majority of the civilized world.  I’d like to see how Lee’s prose stands up to the expectations of its myth.  I’d also like to learn the elements of backstory necessarily excised from the play.

Pressure

(40%) I’ve never been the one to say, “I work best under pressure.”  It is, in fact, usually calamitous.  But I’m flying home from Detroit to Seattle, and I was comped for free wi-fi, so I’ve set myself this task: to write and publish a blog post before my Macbook battery runs out.  And, be advised that my battery guage diminishes faster than the gas gauge on a Ford Explorer.

(38%) So I’m at the end of a week’s travel.  It began at 3:30 am last Tuesday, when a shuttle picked me up for a 6am flight to Orlando, where I attended a software conference.  There’s just not much to write about that.  I attended a session on inventory costing which was very beneficial, but would be a recipe for further alienation here.

(36%) Flew Thursday night from Orlando to Columbus, where my brother had been working all week, and we spent Friday touring the new student union on the Ohio State campus, then dinner and an impromptu appearance at a Columbus Blue Jackets game. My first in-person NHL game.  Impressive skating and puck-handling.  The obligatory glove-and-helmet-disrobing fight, which had no discernible cause, got over with in the first period.  Perhaps the Blue Jackets spent all their passion in that pas-de-deux, because they went on to lose 6-1, including goals allowed to a short-handed Calgary team, and another with 12 seconds left.

(32%) Saturday was the piece-de-resistance: the Ohio State-Purdue football game.  I was extended the privilege to purchase a pair of tickets to the game due to my winning the lottery conducted for alumni of my caste (those who give $10 - $25 bucks, usually by the accident of answering the phone in time).  The seats were awfully good - 4 rows from the top of C-Deck, smack on the 30-yard-line.   We attended the marching band’s pregame rehearsal/concert in St. John Arena called Skull Session, which is attended by 10,000 - 12,000 people.  By bro’s old band buddy had saved us seats in the front row, and we reveled in the band’s extraordinary sound.  (I’ll post video later)

(27%) After the game, we drove up to Perrysburg to visit our mom and to complete some chores that we’d started on our last visit over Labor Day weekend.  Both of her bathroom fans, installed when my parents built the house in 1961, had failed, and we had managed over Labor Day to remove them and their housings, only to find that nothing at Lowe’s would fit into the same space.  We struggled a bit at that time, then solemnly promised to finish the job on our next visit (each hoping, of course, that the other one would be making that visit alone).

(23%) We worked part of Saturday and a lot of the day Sunday.  One of the new fans would not work at all, and we had started to think that we would have to engage an electrician to find the problem.  Meanwhile, we had discovered a problem with one of mom’s downspouts that, left untended, had the potential to wash dirt away from the foundation.  The house is already experiencing an alarming amount of settling (it’s brick, so the evidence is impossible to ignore).  Another trip to Lowe’s, and we got started on that chore just as, of course, it started raining.  We fitted a new length of aluminum downspout and reattached it to a drain as lightning and thunder crashed all around us.

(19%, red warning) Then the power went out.  Like it’s going to here soon.  We worked inside on the fan problem by flashlight, and wer giving up when my bro discovered a severed wire to a switch that was almost certainly our culprit.  We patched in a new length of wire and bolted everything together.  We wouldn’t know, however, whether we’d been successful until the power came back on.

(17%) We enjoyed the rest of the evening socializing with Mom with candles burning, and imbibing sports the old-fashioned way: listening to the Packers-Vikings game on a battery-operated radio.  We took a walk along the darkened street and watched a gorgeous full moon rise above storm clouds, one house flickering inside with candlelight, the next alit from the hum of a gas generator.  More than 4 hours later, the power came back on.  We reluctantly snuffed all the candles and plugged the critical electronics back in, then walked upstairs.  The errant bathroom fan was purring beneficently. We declared the weekend a success.

(12%) Scene.  And I’m not editing.

Camping, Musically

Still chewing on May here.  One of the fun things we did was band camp with Rainbow City Band.  It was held over a weekend at Fort Worden in Port Townsend (where most of the movie Officer and a Gentleman was filmed), and it represents sort of a breakpoint between the sit-down concert season and the less-structured marching season.  The fun started on a Friday night with a music rehearsal (of course), then a talent show that sounded like a gas.  We missed it, because I was out of town the week before, and didn’t arrive at SeaTac until nearly midnight Friday.

Mrs. Perils & I got up at 5 Saturday morning in order to catch a ferry at 6:10, as I really wanted to attend all of the planned activities on Saturday.  And planned they were.  Even as a late arrival, I still participated in 1 sectional, three music rehearsals and 3 marching/playing rehearsals in about 36 hours. In between, there were festive mealtimes in a dining hall where we sat at various tables and really got acquainted with other band members.  Our Tuesday rehearsals are so tightly focused, and the space is so cramped, that I actually had not met many of the people from the other side of the band. I was gratified by the warm and ready acceptance of Mrs. Perils, and of us as an entity.

The piece de resistence occurred Saturday night. The theme for the weekend was Alice In Wonderland and, after our post-dinner music rehearsal came a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.  All of the communications about Band Camp had encouraged costumes, but since I was out of town the previous week I never got anything together. This, as it turns out, was a huge mistake.  The costumes at the party ranged from clever to extravagant.  There was a fully-formed green caterpillar with a hookah, Tweedle Dee & Dum, a Cheshire Cat, various playing cards including the Queen of Hearts with a formidable-looking axe, and one or two Alices in drag.  The costume that tickled me the most, however, was a guy in street clothes with a pregnancy tester hanging around his neck.  When we asked what he was supposed to be, he looked at it, frowned, and said, “I’m LATE! I’m LATE! I’m LATE for a very important DATE!”  There were numerous tables with various board and card games going on, and every 20 minutes or so, the Mad Hatter would scurry around the room forcing people to move and mix with others at different games.  Among all of the wine and other beverages and hors d’oeuvres, someone uncorked a huge barrel of a deadly concoction called Strip and Go Naked (contents: beer, lemonade, vodka), as if this occasion needed more encouragement.

We slept in a large dormitory building that used to be barracks at the Fort, and the organizer thoughtfully polled everyone regarding their bedtime/noise level preferences, and arranged our accommodations accordingly.  We were fortunate to land at the end of the “quiet” folks, as there was apparently an after-party to the tea party that left one wing of the band decidedly fuzzy Sunday morning.

At one point during our marching practice, we were approaching a chapel in which a wedding had just been consummated, and it was our (or their) misfortune that we were just finishing Bad Romance (Lady Gaga).  We tried to make it up to them by playing Over The Rainbow and Don’t Stop, but I’m not sure they were amused, and it seemed politic for us to hie ourselves to another part of the facility.  One other amusing thing: a guy who played French horn during concert season is playing Glockenspiel for marching, explaining that he’s bisectional.

We got a lot of work done, and had a great time.  Even got several beach walks in (click to enlarge):

The trumpet section…and the perspective of the drumline

Travelogue

Fully decompressed now from my two weeks on the road, and today (Saturday) slaps me upside the head with some true spring weather.  Son and girlfriend took Mrs. Perils off to Index for a Mother’s Day rock-climb, and I’m mellowing in a coffeehouse after mowing the lawn.

As mentioned previously, I followed my monthly Milwaukee gig with a trip to Atlanta to attend the Microsoft Convergence 2010 conference.  One of my clients uses one of MSFT’s ERP packages (Navision), and we’re about to undergo a significant upgrade, so a handful of us attended in order to learn what changes were afoot and to perhaps apprehend additional ways we could use the software.  Since my youngest brother lives in a northern suburb of Atlanta, I bunked out at his house for the 4-day conference and rode the MARTA rail system right up to the doors of the Georgia World Convention Center.

The first day, I arrived and thought I could just saunter into the first session.  What I didn’t realize was that 8500 people were attending the conference.  Registration reminded me of a huge Customs operation, perhaps what it might have been like to land at Ellis Island.  The whole thing was very well-done, though - everything ran like Swiss trains.  It was lavishly catered, at least in the context of other things like this I’ve attended.  The first night, there was a reception with all kinds of performers, and about 15 different food a beverage kiosks scattered around a massive hall:


(Shaquille O’Neal clone)

In another area, there were several hundred networked PCs set up so attendees could run tutorials and demos on their particular software package (4 ERP systems were represented, plus several other productivity tools like CRM):

One thing that was kind of hilarious was hearing the session moderators repeatedly say, “if you Goo…uh…BING it…”

On the Tuesday evening that the conference ended, my brother & sister-in-law had tickets to a Jimmy Buffett concert at an outdoor venue south of town.  I rode the train down to meet them in the parking lot, little realizing what an event the pre-concert tailgate is for a Buffett concert (it was my first, but they’ve been Parrotheads for years, and they love going diving in the Florida Keys).  You could walk around the parking lot and encounter various tableaux, almost like dioramas, often with a bowl of jello shooters set out like Halloween candy.  The guys below had built a tiki bar out of bamboo especially for the concert.  The guy sitting behind the bar sported a pair of false (I assume/hope) buttocks that he invited all & sundry to autograph (Click any photo to enlarge):

Eventually, there was actually a concert:

Mrs. Perils flew in on Wednesday and saw my brother’s place for the first time.  Then Thursday, it was off to Myrtle Beach for our annual spring family reunion.  I’m not sure how long we’ve been doing this spring meeting.  It started back in the mid-90s when my parents would golf their way south from Toledo and end up at my middle brother’s place near Charleston, SC.  They found this resort called Litchfield By The Sea on Pawley’s Island, just south of Myrtle Beach, and started making it a destination.  I’m not sure when I began joining them, but it must have been ‘98 or ‘99, because I’m sure I tagged it onto a business trip for the company I was working for then.

It’s a really nice time to be there - it’s usually 65 - 70 degrees, which the locals find too chilly to draw them to the beach, so despite the colossal condo buildings there, we have a lot of beach to ourselves.  Attendees this year were all 3 of us brothers and our wives, my mom, my niece and her squeeze.  We walked a lot, rented bikes, ate, drank and generally enjoyed ourselves (and each other):


View from our room


My bro, SIL and Mom


Watching the Kentucky Derby at a seaside bar

Mrs. Perils saddling up (in blue, center)


Probably happy to see our plane leave.

December, Part 1

The world finally slowed down a tad, before turning on its heel and hurtling into 2010.  I’ll recap December a bit, then turn and face the new year head (and blog) on.

The month started, I think, with a cold, enough of one to make me postpone a business trip to eastern Washington.  It was still lingering a bit on a Friday afternoon when I boarded a plane for a week away from home, first to visit my mom in Toledo for a weekend, then on to Milwaukee for a week of work.

We had a really pleasant visit.  I did something over that weekend I hadn’t done in about 40 years - practiced my trumpet in the basement of the house I grew up in.  See, I’ve been hauling it on my business trips since I’ve been playing in this band, because laying off for a whole week would just kill any progress I’ve been making all fall, and our holiday concert was coming up the next weekend.  (In the hotel rooms, I put my cup mute in, sit on the floor and point the horn under the bed. On a good day, it might sound to anyone in adjacent rooms like space alien sex.)

We made a trip to visit the Toledo Art Museum.  It’s one of those venerable old civic institutions endowed by industrial barons of the gilded age (in this case, Libbey Glass), and has a surprisingly extensive collection.  I would say it’s easily twice the size of Seattle’s.  Toledo was known for a long time as the Glass City, owing to its housing the corporate headquarters of Libbey Glass, Owens Corning, Owens-Illinois and Libbey-Owens-Ford.  It’s no surprise, then, that one of its featured collections is glass art and artifacts, dating from ancient Egypt.  They opened a Glass Pavilion annex a few years ago, and we watched a glassblowing exhibition and perused the exhibits (Click any photo to enlarge):

On Sunday, I did a few odd jobs, including hanging some curtains, that required me to go out to the garage and riff through my dad’s tool shelves. They are laden with tools that date from the 40s and 50s, and the sight of them stirs some of my oldest memories. My dad was a delegator, and when he was doing some job around the house, he always wanted one of us there with him - ostensibly to learn the particular task or skill, but more to the point, to run to the garage and retrieve tools as he needed them. As I touched them, I could hear his words: “electric drill; brace-and-bit; 3-in-one oil; Phillips screwdriver (this one confused me for a while, as they called me “Philip” in my early years). The tools remain there even with the infrequent use they get now, a shrine to a doggedly resourceful DIY guy.

Recap

As expected, I paid for the time off in South Carolina with a very busy 4-day week, especially as I’m headed to Milwaukee Sunday. Here are some additional pics from SC that I particularly like. The first two sets were taken just after a rain squall, and were presided over by a full, horizon-to-horizon rainbow (with a hint of a double-rainbow in the lower left) (Click any photo to enlarge).

In the lower left, I like the sand patterns that our grand-step-niece is splashing through (Mrs. Perils in the background, step-niece on left). The pic on the right is one of several little tidepools that were teeming with juvenile clams all huddled together, siphons extended lasciviously. I never had so much fun on spring break

After leaving Pawley’s Island on Sunday, Mrs. Perils and I drove south to visit with a man whom we met in our online book club. He lives near Hilton Head Island, and we drove out there Monday just to say we’d been there. We didn’t have a lot of time to explore, and it seemed that all of the beachfront was taken up by private resorts. We did find a little Audubon preserve, and decided it was our only opportunity for a little outing before blasting up to the airport for our Monday evening flight back to Seattle. There was a pond there with a viewing platform, and as we walked out on it, turtles from all over the pond jetted over to us. We felt like the Rolling Stones of brackish pond-dom. We had nothing to feed them, and probably wouldn’t have anyway, and they soon lost interest, and I swear I could hear them grumbling darkly. I also spied a bright green gecko skittering beside the path. He hauled himself onto a large leaf, and I really like the backdrop it makes for the photo on the right:

We usually head down to the beach for our nightcap. Here’s my middle brother, step-niece and me on our last night:

Since I had used frequent-flier miles to purchase Mrs. Perils’ ticket, she was not eligible for a first-class upgrade. My ticket was, however, and we lucked out on both the outbound and return trips. Since I gave the seat to Mrs. Perils on the outbound, I got it on the return. Not all upgrades are created equal, however, as I had an…um…interesting seatmate on the 4-hour flight from Houston to Seattle. Thank heaven it was first class - he’d have been a load in coach. He was actually very affable and friendly, and engaged in a lot of nsfw banter with his trainer, who was seated behind us.

Extended slide show of photos from the trip here.

Hello, Frostbite Falls

That’s the view today from the Northwest Airlines Worldclub in Seattle - it’s the Olympic Mountains behind an Airbus A330 bound for Incheon, Korea. I won’t be on that plane - I’ll be on a much more modest 757 headed for the balmy climes of Minneapolis (for a short layover), then Milwaukee. The temperature will be nudging 6F when I arrive.  I’ll post more once I arrive and get my keyboard de-iced.

Update

Sitting now in the Minneapolis Worldclub, where the WiFi password is “COLD”.  Go figure.

The red tail in the photo above is an endangered species, as Delta bought Northwest and is slowly repainting NWA’s aircraft.  It’s one more change that I’ll have to accommodate, since I’ve spent so much of the last 10 years or so in and around NWA aircraft.  I’ll have to countenance changes to my frequent flyer plan, even though my miles and status (Gold) will be merged into Delta’s.  It’s superfluous in the overall scheme of things, but when you travel a lot, you can limit the variables and uncertaincy by flying the same airlines, booking the same rental cars, etc.

Here are some images from the flight out of Seattle.  We’ve been experiencing a thermal inversion, so the air is clear once you’re above the inversion layer: