Thanksgiving Trip Recap

Okay…I’m still at work, but I’m done with my work for the day. I feel like I’ve accomplished something, too, so I’m content to stay late writing in my blog!

My visit home was nice. My original plan was to get home on time for a convention in downtown Urbana, or at least on time to hang out with some friends and get something to eat, but I got in so late that I just grabbed a sub from Jimmy John’s, some green iced tea from Espresso, and went home to crash out (after watching Howl’s Moving Castle–great movie).

I woke up Saturday morning and checked my phone to find a text message informing me that I was slated to help lead a workshop in fifteen minutes. I headed straight over and found some coffee and the room where I was supposed to share. Within ten minutes of arriving, I began to experience hints of awkwardness about my recent job change. My anxiety spiked as I began to think that these hints were only the beginning of what would become tension or outright hostility. Thankfully I was able to release the anxiety quickly, and it didn’t take long to see that what I feared would not come to pass. I went out for a nice lunch (Dos Reales) with some friends and the rest of my day was quite enjoyable, with plenty of other workshops and visiting with friends from all over Illinois and from at least one other state, as well.

On Sunday night, I got together with some of my family for my little brother’s 17th birthday. It’s a trip because I remember when he was born. Now he’s taller than I am! We had some nice steaks at the Ribeye.

I spent my day Monday at Espresso, (writing that long-ass description of my trip home, I believe), and then got together that evening with a couple of friends for the Chinese buffet, Four Seasons House. Afterward, Yuka and I met up with my two of my brothers, a sister, and my little bro’s girlfriend for some family bowling at the Illini Union. It was a nice time, and I had the high score on our second game! Score wasn’t as important to us as the speed of the bowling ball though, because the computer displayed that after each roll. I had one of the higher speeds on that, too.

Tuesday I had lunch with a couple of good friends that work at Espresso. We went to the Office, where I got the good old patty melt. It wasn’t until after lunch that I realized that they hadn’t put any onions on it! I had requested raw onions instead of grilled, but I think they misunderstood. Oh well. That night I went to Paxton. We picked up some Just Hamburgers to eat at Mom’s house before driving up to Chicago to pick up Rosie. Those blurry pictures with Jesus on the dashboard are all from that little joy-ride. It was a precise operation: we drove in, got Rose, and drove out. Next time I want to actually stop the car and take some decent pictures of the skyline. Hopefully my next visit will be at a warmer time!

On Wednesday, we joined a Japanese couple who are Espresso regulars for lunch at the Courier. Among other things, we discussed how restaurants quality generally seems to decline once they’ve become really popular. The fries at Courier used to be phenomenal; now they’re just okay. We ran into the same problem that evening at dinner with my dad, at Dos Reales. It wasn’t as busy as usual, so the food was a bit cold and the service was marginal. Dad and I went and shot a couple games of pool together before he dropped me off at a friend’s house for some Halo and Family Guy.

Thursday was Thanskgiving, but we didn’t make it to Paxton until late afternoon. The little lady had some important cloning responsibilities in the lab, and dinner in Paxton wasn’t going to be ready until a bit later anyway. As soon as I got to Paxton, I turned around and rode with my little bro to pick up my bigger little bro in Urbana (I should’ve called before we left to see if he needed a ride). By the time we returned, it was time for turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and sushi (an emerging family tradition). Once we were all full, we chilled out in the living room watching season one Arrested Development.

On Friday, I went shopping with the little lady, and then we went out to the Great Impasta for a nice dinner with friends. Later we went out and watched Stranger than Fiction, which was rather enjoyable.

The following day, I joined my extended family for a second-round Thanksgiving dinner in my aunt’s new home in Mahomet. We stayed there long enough to see the basketball team from my alma mater defeat the team from the school where I began my college career, then we joined a couple of friends to watch Casino Royale. It was my first time seeing a James Bond movie, and I think it was worth it. Not life-changing or anything, but worth the $6.50 and however much time it lasted.

The next morning I woke up a full two hours after my flight left. I went to the airport and waited on standby, but managed to get a seat on the first flight to Chicago. There I caught the second flight to LA (John Favreau was on the first flight, and there wasn’t room for both of us, even though he’s lost all kinds of weight somehow), and I rode the FlyAway back to the valley, and got on a metro bus to go back home. At the bus stop where I waited for the last ride of the evening, my phone rang. It was someone I met through mutual friends here in LA. “Are you at a bus stop?” Yes… “Do you want a ride?” Sure…

I made it home safe and sound by ten at night. It was a nice trip home.

A Long Ride Home

It’s been a while again since I wrote. I’m here in lovely Urbana Illinois now, where the temperature is a comfortable 52 degrees Fahrenheit. This is probably the warmest it has been since I landed in Chicago late Friday evening. It’s a funny story about Friday.

I woke up at 5:15 or so to get ready to catch a bus. The bus would pick me up three or four blocks from my front door, and I would have to transfer onto another bus to get to the Van Nuys FlyAway, which delivers passengers directly to LAX. For my 10:20 flight, I wanted to try to make it to the airport by 8:30. I estimated an hour on the FlyAway, so I would need to be on that by 7:30.

Based on the combined schedules of the two buses I would take, I needed to catch the 5:50 bus by my house in order to be at the FlyAway on time. Dragging my luggage behind me about a block away from the bus stop, I saw my bus passing the bench where I’d soon be sitting. Oops. I made it to the bench and took a seat, wondering if the bus I missed came four times an hour, twice an hour, hourly, or daily. It was the Commuter Express, heading to downtown LA, so it seemed entirely possible that it only came once a day to take all the hardworking businesspeople to their office buildings in the heart of the city. I waited for about ten minutes, though, and another Commuter Express rolled up. I picked up my bag, stepped into the bus, and asked how much the fare was. It was a silly question; I already knew from looking the trip up online. Nevertheless, the woman asked where I was going, and I told her where I planned to get off the bus–an intersection four or five miles down the road. “This bus only goes downtown,” she said, her tone much less assured than her words.

“Oh,” I said. I didn’t bother to show her my printout from the Metro LA website that directed me to get on her bus. It would’ve taken too long because it was buried in my bookbag. I got off the bus and returned to my seat on the bench, wondering if I’d inadvertently mistaken it for a different bus. After fishing the printout from my bookbag, I realized I’d been correct. It had only been fifteen minutes for the first bus to come back; maybe another would come in another fifteen minutes. I waited patiently and got on the next one.

This time, I asked for a transfer as I plopped my coins into the slot. I asked with the confidence of someone who rode the bus daily, but the guy still asked, “where are you going?” I mentioned the intersection where I would disembark, and after a thoughtful moment, he nodded in agreement and punched the transfer for me.

My luggage was large enough to take up the two seats on the other side of the aisle, and at one stop we picked up a blind man who was confused that he couldn’t sit there. I told him I was sorry and said to sit one row back. When I got off the bus, a woman waiting to board had to stand aside for a moment while I lugged my luggage off behind me. I crossed the street to wait for the next bus.

There were a couple of guys waiting for the same bus, and I realized quickly that they were developmentally challenged. One sang along (very poorly) with his early model personal CD player; the other sat on the ground Indian style, rocking back and forth. The three of us waited as schoolchildren arrived on foot and left on school buses, and eventually our bus came, too, well over a half an hour later. I realized that the reason I probably should’ve come sooner was because this bus must’ve been hourly. I arrived at the FlyAway shortly after 7:30, which meant I could still catch the 8:00 bus (they depart every half hour) and hopefully arrive by 9:00.

The FlyAway was nice because once they reached their quota for the trip, they went ahead and took off. We left sometime shortly after 7:45 and made it to LAX by 8:40. I was in pretty decent shape for my 10:20 flight. I spent the last of the cash I’d brought on a coffee at the terminal Starbucks. It cost fifty cents more than coffee in standalone stores. Ridiculous. By the time I wandered over to the gate, we were about set to start boarding. I hadn’t even had a drink of my coffee and cursed myself for spending two of my last three dollars in cash on coffee when the attendants would serve us coffee once we took off.

We sat on the plane for half an hour or forty-five minutes before the captain’s voice finally came over the intercom to let us know that there was some sort of leak in the hydraulics. They were going to have their mechanic get down there and take a look. After another half hour or more, they told us that the leak was too bad and we’d have to change “equipment.” Everyone had to get off the plane.

When we got back up to the gate, they instructed people with connecting flights in Chicago to wait in line to get seats on new flights. I took a look at the huge line and thought that there was no sense messing with it. I originally had a two-hour layover; as long as we got to Chicago by 6 or so, I would have no problem catching my connection. We waited and waited for the replacement “equipment” to roll up to the gate, and after a while it became clear that we wouldn’t make it to Chicago by 6. I took a place in line.

They told me I was luckier than some of the others, who wouldn’t be able to have replacement connections that evening in Chicago. I was put on standby for the first connection to Champaign and they gave me a guaranteed seat on the second connection. We boarded the new airplane when it arrived and managed to take off from LAX something like three hours after we were scheduled to. Yay!

We arrived in Chicago and circled over the Lake before touching down at O’Hare. I wandered to the gate they’d announced on the plane for connections to C-U and sat around waiting for them to mention our flight. My cell phone battery died in the middle of a phone call to my sister, and when I looked in my bookbag for the charger, I realized I’d packed it in my luggage. Now I wouldn’t be able to call the little lady to let her know when to pick me up at Willard. I finally went to the desk to ask whether or not I would be able to get the standby seat on the first flight. The woman at the desk told me that I was at the wrong gate. WTF? I walked clear across the airport, my empty stomach now grumbling about the fact that I hadn’t brought more cash and was spending all of my time sitting and waiting anxiously.

I found the correct gate and verified that I was on standby, and then waited patiently as they let everyone board and then called off the names of everyone on standby before me. A couple of people on standby didn’t show up, and the captain walked out and asked the desk folks, “Can I have one more?” They called my name, and I sat in the last seat on the plane. I wondered as I took my seat, “Does the plane use a lot more gas when it’s completely full like this?”

After half an hour on this plane, a voice came over the intercom to explain that we were waiting for bags from other connecting flights, and that we’d be taking off as soon as they were loaded. Fifteen minutes later, they came on again, explaining that we were now overweight. “Passengers Corning and such-and-such, please return to the desk at the gate,” they announced.

They directed me to another gate, again clear at the other end of the airport. I hustled over to make it just as they were beginning to board. I turned on my cell phone just long enough to send a quick text message: “1030” to the little lady, so she’d know when I was arriving. This plane took off without much delay and we arrived in Champaign shortly afterward. I found my luggage waiting there for me (it took an earlier flight), along with the little lady. We drove by the Korean restaurant to find out it was closed, then hit Jimmy John’s and espresso before going back to her place to crash. And man was it cold out here!

More Will Be Revealed…

Mom’s Visit

I’ve been silent a while. I’ve got a bit of news. I went to Northern California again this weekend when my mother flew in to visit. We drove together so she can spend the week with the boys. Next time she comes, we might actually take a little bit of time so she can see LA and the places I live and work, but on this trip we were a bit pressed for time. We’ll see each other again soon anyway. We’re both flying into Chicago this Friday. I will then get on another flight to Champaign, where I’ll spend a week not doing much of anything at all, except probably hanging out at Espresso and eating turkey.

I gave up on the children’s book for NaNoWriMo. I’m just too invested in Never Enough. I finished revisions on Chapter Two (for now), but I’m not quite ready to post it yet. I don’t want to give too much away ;)

Also, I am giving very serious thought to a ten-day silent meditation retreat in early April of next year. As long as I can get the time off work, I’m going to do it.

That’s about it for now, I guess. Just wanted to let you all know that I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. Check back soon for Chapter Two…I might feel froggy and post it.

Yay!

Rumsfeld is out and Dems have taken the House for sure and most likely the Senate as well!

Now let’s all just pray that they get out there and work for us, not the filthy corporations that we support…

Creepy!

saddam hussein

My brother sent me a message today to point out that Saddam Hussein was captured on my twenty-third birthday (13 December 2003) and convicted on my brother’s twenty-third birthday (5 November 2006). Strange indeed. I’m sure the deeper cosmological meaning of this will be revealed to us both at a later date, perhaps when Barack Obama is unmasked as the antichrist.

More importantly, I’ve rearranged my office at work. I’m very pleased. I no longer have to turn my head to look out the window. On the other hand, folks passing by the office can easily see that I’m blogging instead of working, or whatever else I might do at the computer. And I have to turn around to even know that they are there. Hopefully I don’t get bludgeoned to death by a disgruntled coworker before I find a small mirror to give me a view of the doorway.

Finally, I’ve decided not to move forward with the children’s book at this point in time. I’m just too emotionally invested in the other piece and am not quite sure enough of where I want to go with the new thing. So I apologize for getting anyone’s hopes up.

NaNoWriMo poll

I have been inspired by the nanowrimo folks to devote all of my free time in November to completing a novel. The problem is that in order to do it the way they are all doing it, I would need to begin a new novel. I’ve had an idea in mind for a book for children for a while, and this could be a great opportunity to begin (and conceivably finish) that project.

But in the last couple of weeks, I’ve finally gotten back to work on Never Enough, a novel that I began writing in 1999. I even finished revisions on the first chapter, which you can read here.

What I want to know is, do you think I should start the new project or complete the old one? Keep in mind I’ve got six chapters of the old one written, and have begun the seventh. But I could easily spend as much time revising chapters 2-6 as writing drafts of 7-12.

When I leave work at 5 (california time), I’ll get started on this. So if you want to vote, do so before then. Thanks!