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9:22 a.m. - April 18, 2006
Semi-Bored in Baltimore
Greetings from Baltimore!

Yes, I am here in this fine city to attend a conference for us senior data geeks…er…Advancement Services Professionals this week. However, I went out a day early to see some friends, like Mac, and Vicki and to rest, relax, reflect, and write.

Or something like that.

But Monday reminded me that although I love to travel, and do like going out and seeing the country and attending these conferences for development and growth, and to visit my friends and colleagues, traveling for business is a pain in the ass.

Last year, this conference was in Vancouver. I always wanted to see Vancouver. However, I was also a good money-saving employee, so the cheapest fare was to go through Vancouver through Phoenix. So, 9 hours in the air to get there from Indy.

My boss said we could have afforded the extra $30 and I could have flown through Chicago or Minneapolis. Oh, NOW he tells me.

At least the flight to Baltimore was a direct flight.

I got up early on Monday so I could take care of some things in the office before I left. I had two meetings to attend, and at one of them I had to give a presentation. So Sunday, I made sure I was all packed except for my dress pants (which my lovely wife ironed for me), and I ensured I had the essentials like cell phone charger, iPod charger, etc. You know, I could always get more underwear or another polo shirt, but to be without an iPod charger, man…that’s rough!

It was hard, though. Katie was barely awake when I left the house, and I had to wake Kristin up to tell her goodbye. When I was in DC last month, she pulled up for the first time. What will she do new when I’m here, solve a differential equation? Split an atom? Who knows?

So I left the office, stopped by the post office to mail a package, and to the tunes of “Show and Tell” by Al Wilson, I wended my way to the Indianapolis Airport.

The drive is rather uneventful, but I always steel myself for mayhem on I-465, especially on the exit I take to go to the airport parking lot. As “Givin the Dog a Bone” by AC/DC was blaring out of the iPod, I made the tricky maneuver. What you have to do is exit onto the right lane, then swing over to the far left turn lane (which means you go through two other lanes) within ¼ mile in order to make the turn onto High School Road. With traffic, it’s not for the faint of heart. Fortunately, there wasn’t that much traffic, except for some trucks, and they helped as interference, actually. Angus Young would have been proud.

There was no traffic in the check-in line, so I had time to go grab lunch at the airport. Well, the only thing that appealed to me was TGIFridays, a soul sucking experience if there ever was one. (When the only thing that appeals to you is a Fridays, then you really need some time for self examination, reflection and meditation.)

I did die a little bit in there. The bartender, who looked like a refugee from a ska-revival or neo-swing band (he may HAVE been in Big Bad Voodoo Daddy for all I know); complete with stupid looking hat was juggling bottles. From a distance, it looked a bit cool, in a cheesy Tom Cruise way, but he dropped one and the truth was revealed. They were empty PLASTIC bottles.

My other companion at the bar was a mush mouthed Kevin Federline clone, complete with the stupid offset hat, and the hat’s logo was offset so the only way to wear it was in that offset matter. What happens if the sun is in your eyes, dude?

I soon left to save my soul, went through security, and sat at the gate. Because Southwest does not assign seats, there were a lot of people waiting already. Now normally, this would allow one for some prime people watching, but except for the guy with two prosthetic legs (who walked faster than half of the people around), these were boring, dull, drab people. I guess people who fly to Baltimore on Mondays are rather dull.

So I spent $8 to go on the internet for an hour and check emails, read some stuff, and just try to chase away the stifling ennui. I was saving my magazines for the plane, and already read my newspaper at the restaurant, so there was just…nothing…

On the plane, I did find an aisle seat (yeah!) and as a bonus, there was an empty seat between me and the dude at the window. So I had some room to stretch out.

The plan was to go through some songs on the iPod, as it was time to select songs for four new mixes, and perhaps set the running order for the last mix that I need to get out the door in a couple of weeks.

For some reason, my headphones don’t do a great job in blocking out the ambient noise of an airplane. Plus, I feel the need to be able to hear the captain’s announcements. Call me silly, but if I need to assume the position, I want to be able to hear about it toot sweet.

Exacerbating the situation was my concern about my left ear. It had gotten…uh…cloggy….as it does from time to time. In fact, Sunday I had basically watched the Sopranos one eared. I had used Debrox and a bulb syringe Monday morning and got it mostly unclogged, but my ears don’t always react well to a plane.

Fortunately, they stayed clear for the flight, which was rather uneventful. I polished off two magazines, and I hope the person who flew from Baltimore to Albany enjoys my Esquire. It was pretty decent issue.

So I get my bag, and I realize that I don’t remember what the name of the hotel is, so I call my colleague AJ, who is such a sweetie that she doesn’t laugh at me (a lot) when looking it up for me. She deserves a drink from me this week.

I don’t know if there’s an airport shuttle that’s efficient, so I grab a cab, and about halfway through the cab ride I realize it’s a mistake. It’s a $35 cab ride from the airport to my downtown hotel. I’m in the wrong business.

I know this has been scintillating, but as you can see, this is not glamorous stuff here.

I check in, get unpacked, call Liz to see what damage the girls have done (cousin Dru is over and they’re attacking the new sandbox with vigor), and wait for my friend Mac to come by.

We’re going to see the Orioles play!

It’s a short walk (relatively) to the ballpark, and we get in, get some of Boog Powell’s barbeque and then move to our seats. We were told they were decent seats, but I saw that they were row GG, so I wondered how good they really were.

Well, we got to the section and the section we had was down close to the field. It was row GG all right, but the first row was row AA. And the seats were right behind home plate.

Sweet!

The game takes a much different perspective when you are sitting there. You can see the entire field. You can see the nuances of how the players position themselves. You can see the movement on the pitches, and how subtle the spin is that makes a slider a slider. I picked up that when Angels’ pitcher Jeff Weaver gets two strikes on a hitter, he’ll drop his arm angle down and try to bust a slider on the corner. He did that every time.

The game was over quickly, and it was a great experience. Mac and I had some good conversations and he’s looking forward to coming out in July for the F-1 race. We even hugged! (I always hug Moose, you know, like we’re mobsters, but never Mac. Well, maybe he realizes that I am the capo of our crew. Heh.)

After that, I walked down to the ESPNZone, just to see what it was like. I ordered a beer, and called Liz.

“Honey, I just wanted to say that I’m sitting here in a room with 12 TVs, each on a different sporting event.”

“Oh, that’s nice dear. Be sure not to invite me the next time you go there!”

Gotta love her.

So I called a couple of other friends, and got a decent night of sleep, though I woke up with a cloggy ear again, which totally disconcerts me. My balance is a bit off and it just feels like I’m in a cloud when my left side hearing is all foggy.

However, I think I have successfully gotten rid of the demon lurking in there. Thank you Debrox!

So today it should be a good day. I don’t have a lot to do, I get to spend time with Vicki and help her iTunes behave, and hopefully tonight I see some more of my colleagues.

But on the whole, while this is all fun, and I’m glad to be here, it’s still not like being home. I mean, I love having breakfast delivered to my room and all, but I’d rather be in my kitchen, whipping it up, while stepping on the Cheerios that Kristin has thrown across the room.

I do miss that crunch!

 

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