Friday, February 22, 2008

The Airport at Joplin MO

Well, as I had feared, this airport has no x-ray machines and they go through your bags by hand. Fortunately they didn't do it in front of me so I didn't have to stand there beet red. Bad news is I am the ONLY customer here so the guy that is going through my bag knows exactly who it belongs to! :-)
Some of you may have heard the weather out here sucks right now, so here are some pics I took at the airport to demonstrate!

February 2008 Quapaw night 2

OK, so my second and I hope last night in Quapaw ends on a better note!

I had hoped to meet another Tgirl in Tulsa, but as luck would have it, the weather turned real nasty. With ice and sleet everywhere and it getting worse every moment, we decided it was not wise to head out for three hours of driving on ice. So, I stayed in Quapaw.
My first night here I went to the casino and very rapidly lost $40. I know a lot of you think I’m wealthy based on my lifestyle, but you have to remember that I travel for my job and so my company picks up the travel bills. When I’m out spending my own darn money, I have to live a bit more carefully, so I drew the line at $40 down.

Well, tonight things went a bit differently. Within about 10 minutes the video poker game I was playing struck gold. OK, maybe it was only silver but it was good enough for me. Suddenly the $20 I had put in was up to about $120. I said to myself “Self, lets play ‘till were down to $100 and then take the money and run!” Well, I played for a bit and was dismayed to see my total fall to just a bit above $100. Thinking to myself it was all over, I pushed the “Deal” button one last time . . . and was rewarded with the sound of “DING, DING, DING!” Now my original $20 was up to $160 and I said to myself “Self, be smart and cash it in and run like hell!”.
This I time I listened to myself and cashed out and ran for the dinning room.

When I entered dining room, I found it just about empty just as it had been the night before. This time however, the hostess came up quite rapidly and got me seated, and then the waitress followed shortly after. I ordered, ate, and then she went out of her way to chat with me a little. Her parting shot was “I like your shoes!”. I laughed and told her “Thanks! I like ‘em too because they sparkle!”
We both laughed and then I headed back to the hotel where I now sit writing this.

You know what I’m worried about now? The airport in Joplin is the smallest airport I’ve ever been in, so I now have two concerns.
1- Will it be closed tomorrow due to the weather?
2- At the ticket counter (and I do mean counter – singular) I saw an inspection table. I’m afraid they don’t have the equipment that larger airports have and they may go through my bags by hand. Considering the shoes, skirts, and other decidedly feminine articles in my bag, this might be more than a little awkward!

You know what? Quapaw is OK with me.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

February 20, 2008 Quapaw OK

OK, so my first day in Quapaw OK was not so bad.
My customer was pretty much uninterested in the training I came to provide on his new mass spectrometer. Instead, all he wanted was for me to try and remove assorted cards from several PC’s and try to get ONE new PC to run the equipment that three PC’s had been running. Sort of had to tell him that I would be glad to help with that if there was time, but this trip is for training on what you just purchased. When we get that outta the way, then you can waste. . . err . . . I mean use the rest of my time as you see fit.

I worked with two of their engineers. One was very friendly and easy to talk to. It didn’t hurt that he had retired from the Army so we had lots to talk about. The other clearly didn’t like me and didn’t want to spend any time with me. I guess maybe the long glossy finger nails threw him for a loop. Oh well, guess he’ll have to get over it.

Quapaw is every bit as far out and small as you might have guessed:

All in all, that means it’s a place I would love to live in. Bad news though, when you hitch your career wagon to high tech, you need to get used to the idea of living in a populated area.
There were a few gas stations, and restaurants, and my customer. That seemed to be pretty much it. Oh – and Casino’s!

I think it’s great – the Native Americans (American Indians) got the last laugh after all. They can legally have Casinos on their land. I love the idea of them taking all of my . . . err. . . I mean the White Mans money and using it to buy back the land that was taken from them. Sort of poetic justice don’t ya’ think?
So got the work day done and decided to have a little bit of a fashion show and then head out to give the Casino my money and eat dinner.

Anyway, judging from the pics, my wife might be right.
Did a few slots and lost my money VERY fast. Good news is I didn’t get a single dirty look from anyone – either passing or no one really cares.

I was told that the restaurant in this Casino was THE place to eat in Quapaw so I gave it a shot. The food WAS good and the service was too. Y’all should have been there. As I’ve always admitted, I might pass from 5 or 10 feet away, but up close you can tell I’m a male, especially when I open my mouth to speak. So the waitress was a young lady, had to be right around 20 and she did very well. When she figured out I was a guy she stayed friendly and polite. The only thing she did was to tattle on me when she went to the kitchen. The dining room was pretty empty but after she left my table suddenly there were bus boys, cooks, and bartenders swarming the area, and all sneaking peaks at me as I ate and read my novel. It was all I could do to keep from laughing. I tried to pave the way for the next TG that she encounters by giving her a healthy tip. After the check was taken care of she stopped to ask about the book I was reading, S.M. Sterling’s “On The Oceans of Eternity”, and I told her all about it. Not the most astounding night I’ve ever had, but far from the worst!

Friday, February 15, 2008

February 15, 2008 Cold In Indy

It’s been a BUSY week! My flight was supposed to leave at 6AM on 11 Feb for Indianapolis. Given that I am obsessive about getting to the airport two hours before a flight, and the airport is almost an hour from where I live, this means my day started at 3AM. I get to the airport and find that my flight has been canceled because the crew got in late. You want to get mad about that sort of thing, but if you stop to think about it, most of us would agree it’s much better to have a pilot that is awake. 
Fortunately, as I was there so early that they had time to rebook me on another flight that left around the same time so it all worked out just fine.

When I arrived I met Dana Fleming for lunch! Due to both of our schedules, we had to meet “drab”. Personally, I’m not real fond of meeting folks that way. It’s sort of an ego thing as I don’t think I’m terribly attractive as a guy, and so feel more confident as Kim. It takes some bravery to meet other CD’s this way for the first time and Dana was way cool with it and had the courage! She met me at my hotel and called me from the parking lot where I then joined her. As soon as we saw each other we started to laugh. We are both pretty much bald (Damn it) and had on almost identical sweaters!

We talked a lot during lunch – most of which I can’t share for fear of saying something she might not want the world to know. She has one of those careers where your job pretty well counts on people thinking your rough and tough and a man’s man, and she can not afford to take any chances with folks figuring out her hobby. After lunch we went to the mall where, believe it or not, she had to pick up some face cream for her wife! The lady we asked at the counter had the most awesome eyes I have seen – they were perfectly presented by elaborate eye shadow and I was very jealous! Well, I wanted to shop for pretty things and we didn’t think it would be a real good idea for her to be seen shopping for girl stuff with me so we parted ways. Much like myself, Dana DOES go out, just not close to home. If you get the chance to meet her go for it – she’s cool!

Did my shopping and bought some “Guess” perfume. I like it because it is not overwhelming – it has a very “clean” sent to it. It came with lotion that has glitter in it so your skin sparkles! I also found a purple knit top in the style I like so much. What do you know, it goes PERFECT with one of my favorite skirts!

I checked the weather before I left Austin (80 degrees) for Indianapolis, and found it was supposed to be a bit cold, but no real bad weather expected. I was therefore a bit surprised the next day when I woke up to find the roads covered with snow and ice. It took me about 40 minutes to go 10 miles because of all the rubber neckers stopping to look at this over turned truck. Grrrrrr!!!!

All I had brought was my favorite open toed sandals, and since it was cccccccold, and there was Ice and snow everywhere, I went shopping for some pretty boots! It was funny, it was just myself and maybe two GG’s shopping in the store but the manager kept coming over the PA telling all of us that they had a number of specials going on and if you buy one pair of boots you get . . . etc, etc. I was the only one looking at boots so apparently he was trying the hard sell on yours truly. Well, sounded good but he didn’t have any boots I liked so no sale!

The next day I met Kara again and this time we had both brought guitars! I met her on my last trip to Indy and blogged about how awesome she sang Frank Sinatra at karaoke. Well on the trip we found that we were both going to be in Indy again at the same time and so we had planned to get together and jam. 
We met at Candi’s house, a GG friend of hers in Indy, and we ate Pizza, sang, and jammed on guitars. Folks, I’ve been playing guitar for 30 years. I’ve been all over the world with it, jammed with lots of folks, and I’m here to tell you that Kara is hands down the best musician and singer I have ever personally met. We are not talking about her being a little better, we are talking whole leagues better than anyone I have ever jammed with. The upside of this is that it is a lot of fun to play with someone who is really good and can pick up and improve on anything you play. The down side is that I could not return the favor – no way I could come close to backing her up with most of the songs she could play, and it left me feeling a bit of an inferiority complex. LOL That’s OK, it just makes you strive to get better at it!
Thursday I headed back home to Austin. Had a very early flight and so arrived there around noon, purty tired after being up late and getting up so early. With all of my bags still sitting in the truck, I picked my wife up at the office and we went to lunch . . . where I got a call that a big customer of ours was dead in the water and unable to process their product because our instrument had failed. I told my wife it had been great to see her, and that we would have to do this again sometime, and then I drove an hour south of Houston. By the time I got there and got settled, it had been about a 18 hour day so there was no chance in hell Kimberly was gonna go explore Houston!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

OK, who let the hillbilly into the city?

I considered a few other titles for this blog:
"Rednecks get in but they can't get out" or "Nut's in the Hotel". Keep reading, it'll make a little more sense. . .

So I had to go to Newark NJ for a service call and asked in my blog if anyone knew of anything to do there. Would you believe that I had not realized that it was only 30 minutes from New York City? (Did I hear someone say "git a rope"?)

So Erica responds to my blog and invites me to come bug her in the big city. After I got over the "I can't believe I'm so stupid I didn't know I was next to NYC" moment, I jumped on the chance. My first night there I got all slicked up and headed out to scout the route where I was supposed to meet her. I've driven in Korea when I was stationed there and so the thought of driving in a city didn't intimidate me TOO much. I got into the city all right but then things started to get interesting. Shortly after I exited the Holland Tunnel, I found myself trapped into a lane that was headed right back to the tunnel andNewark! I had to get across three lanes of bumper to bumper or end up right back in Newark. So I tried to be polite and turned on my turn signal and attempted to merge.
Then I attempted it again, and again, and again . . .

After a few minutes of this, and my being forced by traffic closer and closer to the tunnel that was gonna take me right back outta the city, I decided I'd had enough. I figured "what the hell, mine is a rental car!" and I shoved my way right across the lanes.
OK, I've got the rules down pat now: Get aggressive or stay home!

So I found where we were supposed to meet the next night and then headed back to Newark. It was kind of ironic - right when I got into New York I was almost shoved right back out of it, so imagine my surprise when I can't get back to the tunnel to leave. Following my GPS, I had to keep shoving my way across traffic to get there, then 3 or 4 lanes being funneled down to 2, then one, then merge into the tunnel. I'm telling you, I can't believe that I didn't loose any paint! There were times I'd of sworn there was no way that a car could fit someplace without hitting something, but they kept doing it anyway.

Safely back at my hotel, I'm all cozy in bed reading a book at 10:30 PM when someone starts to pound on my door. When I was in the Army, we would have called it "The NCO knock". Well, I've been outta the Army a long time now and so was not terribly amused. Thinking to myself "What the hell could this be about" I get up and peek through the peep hole where I see a middle aged woman standing at my door. I open it a bit and ask
"Can I help you?"
"What side of the building is that?" she asks me kind of frantic while pointing into my room.
"I'm sorry, what do you mean? North, South, East, West, front, back? What do you mean by side?" OK, so maybe I wasn't being all that friendly, but come on, she dragged me outta bed for this?
"Well, what's it facing?" she demands.
"I have no idea," I said, beginning to get irritated, "Why? Is there something I can help you with?" I wasn't about to invite her in to take a look. I might have been born at night, but it wasn't LAST night.
"Well, there's something coming from there and going through my room and it's hurting me!" she stated matter of factually.
Did I ever mention that I am a Star Trek fan? Well at this point I can't help myself - I arch one eyebrow in my best Spock imitation.
"Really? That's fascinating. You know, I'm very sorry, but I don't think that I can help you. Perhaps you should consider calling the front desk - maybe they can help you" I told her, thinking to myself that I really wouldn't hold my breath, because I was pretty sure that she needed more help than the front desk can provide.
I gently closed the door.
Then I set the chain.
Then I set the dead bolt.
Then I watched her go into the room across the hall just to be sure she wasn't going after the fire ax. . .

The next day I finish my service call (which went a bit less than stellar), got dressed, and headed for New York again to meet Erica. This time I knew the rules so it went better. I just shoved my way where ever I wanted to be on the road and everything was just hunky dory. I entered the parking garage which appeared to be full. I was hesitating at the entrance, trying to figure out what to do since it was full, when a parking attendant walked up and told me to park directly in front of another car. I parked the car as he had told me to and then got out and confided in him.
"Look, I'm a stupid redneck from a small town so explain it to me would ya'? Whats that guy supposed to do when he wants to leave but my car is blocking him in?" I asked while pointing at the car he had told me to park behind. He went on about his business for a moment as if I hadn't spoken to him, and then he walks up and hands me a ticket.
"You have to leave your keys with me." He says, clearly resenting the fact that he has to explain this. At this point I'm torn. While not comfortable in them, I have spent a fair amount of time in cities and I don't recall ever leaving my keys with the parking attendant. I envision the possible outcome.

< dream sequence follows>
"Hey Erica, I left my keys with the attendant" I would say.
"You did WHAT?!" would shout Erica
"Well he told me I had to and he gave me this real cool ticket to get it back," I would reply.
"Oh my God, you poor, ignorant, redneck - your car has just been stolen!" she would say as she laughed herself sick while calling the cops.
<End Dream Sequence>

When I get to her apartment the door is not locked and she calls out to "Come in" so I do. She is still in the room getting ready and tells me to make myself comfortable, so I kick off my shoes, grab a beer, flop on the sofa, and turn the TV on! Nah I didn't - just teasing. Besides, why would I kick my shoes off? I like wearing my heels! I'm sitting there, still nervous about having left the keys, so I sort of mention it through the door, all the while fearing the dream sequence I described above. Well, turns out I did the right thing - just lucky I guess.

We talked a lot as she got ready. As seems to be the case with a lot of the TG's I have met, we have a good deal on common and I think that we hit it off well. We have many of the same attitudes and she has spent a good deal of time in Austin Texas so we have much to talk about. She has a wonderful attitude about life and being TG AND a sense of humor! There was nothing "forced" or uncomfortable about the evening. I felt immediately comfortable with her and it was just a very neat evening. Much like myself, she has a wife and children, and all the pride associated with them. Erica is every bit as beautiful as her pictures would lead you to believe. She wore a very classy outfit, looking every bit the sophisticated lady. This reminds me! This is the only place where I have ever seen the girls wearing mini skirts with big heavy coats on top! Most places I have been, if it gets cold enough for a big heavy coat, the women are NOT going to be wearing miniskirts. Psst . . . don't tell anyone but I liked it!

We had one amusing moment when I tried to describe my job. I am in the habit of sort of dumbing it down when I describe it to people. Not because people are too ignorant or stupid to understand, but because so few people have any experience or knowledge of semiconductor manufacturing. It's just not something your typical person has ever encountered. Suddenly Erica starts to comment and expand on what I've said, making it quite clear that she has a perfectly fine understanding of whats involved. Smart lady there. Important note to self "Do not assume" anything about people.

I know this sounds silly, but while we were eating dinner, I kept looking out the window and grinning like an idiot. When she asked what I was so amused about I just told her "Who would have thunk it - I'm eating dinner in New York city! That is SOOOO cool!" Yes, I was the small town hick gawking at the city in awe. I might as well have said "Garsh, this sure is a purty big bunch ah buildings y'all got chere!" :-)

We had a fine dinner and then she asked if I was up for visiting one of the local bars where TG's often
hang out on weekends. I'm riding high on adrenalin (I"M IN NYC!) and said "Darn right! Let's go!" and so off we went.

We went to a place called the "Nowhere bar". Nice place and we enjoyed some more conversation before calling it a night and getting a cab back to her apartment. Regretfully, we parted ways and I went to find my car - STILL feeling a little nervous about having left my keys!

I almost choked when I asked him how much I owed him! "$47," he tells me. I just sort of looked at him a second, waiting for the punch line but he wasn't smiling.
"Your kidding right? $47 dollars for parking 4 hours? Come on, your picking on the dumb hillbilly aren't you?" Nope, he wasn't kidding. And to think I had thought Boston was bad when it came to parking.
I dig out my credit card and hand it to him. He hands it right back telling me he only takes cash. Once again I feel one eyebrow start to rise, but its real hard to do a plausible Spock look when your dressed. I pay him, thanking God that I had been smart enough to carry some cash with me, because I usually don't carry much.

Most of you who have read my blog will know, that it seems like I have to have some sort crises on 80% of my outings, and here comes this one. You see, it appears that my GPS doesn't like to be surrounded by buildings and it can't find the satellites. I depended on my GPS and have no maps, and not the foggiest idea how to get out of the city. I drive around at random hoping the GPS will lock onto the satellites and guide me to the hotel but I have no luck. I find two or three areas that appear to be relatively open and park. No Joy
"Having trouble locating satellites. Keep Trying?" it keeps telling and asking me.
"Damn right!" I keep yelling at it, beginning to get scared.
I am not kidding, I had NO idea how to get out of the city, and by driving around at random hoping the GPS will lock on, I now have no idea how to get back to Erica's, or even how to describe where I am if I were to call her. My career is fixing equipment and gadgets when they go haywire, so I should have better sense than to stake everything on that little toy working. I swear I'm not exaggerating - this went on for more than 20 minutes and I was about to swallow my pride and call Erica, feeling ashamed that I didn't have the sense to carry a map, and that I had managed to get well and thoroughly lost, when my little GPS said "Calculating".
"You know, that's twice this city has been reluctant to let me out," I think to myself, almost giddy with relief. Then I sort of giggled. It's like those roach traps they used to advertise on TV when I was younger. I could hear the announcer in my mind: "Rednecks go in, but they don't come out!". Sorry, but I think this little redneck got away after all!

Got to my hotel about 30 minutes later and went to the lounge to get my free beer - a little perk for being platinum with them. No one in the place looked twice at me, I had a good book to read, and so I stayed for a bit. At about 130 AM I had had enough and headed for the elevator where I found one open and entered it. As the door closes and it starts up to the ninth floor I glance at the woman that had already been in it. Guess who? Yup yup, it's the lady from across the hall that pounded on my door the night before. I kept waiting to hear Rod Serlings voice start the narration of how I had just entered the twilight zone. You know what she said?
"Your shoes are SO cute!" she blurted out.
I grinned and said "Thank you! I figure if your gonna do it, you might as well do it right!" We both laughed and headed for our rooms. . . where I used the chain . . and the dead bolt . . .