I heard a great metaphor the other day.
I was at an event on Capitol Hill commemorating Vietnam veterans. One of the speakers said:
Back then, people didn’t like the song. They didn’t like the conductor, and they took it out on the musicians.
As I type it, it actually sounds a little cliché, but there is still something quite poetic about it, and I’m sticking it on here so I won’t forget it later.
Wow. It occurs to me that a lot of shit has happened to me, and I have been remiss to post it here. I was going to go back and post it in the proper place, but LtL told me that that would be stupid, and I should just post it here as a new post and be done with it.
Ok, so here goes:
It all started back in August *screen ripples*
From August 23 – September 4, I was in the city of Denver, the Mile High City, in the state of Colorado, The Centennial State. From August 22 – 24, NASA had an exhibit, the Vision for Space Exploration Experience at the Rocky Mountain Balloon Festival in Chatfield State Park. I was invited to staff the exhibit, and as my boss was in a particularly good mood when I asked if I could go (oh, and as another office paid for my travel), I got to go out to Denver. What I wasn’t told, however, was that I had to be at the exhibit ass-early everyday. I had to be there at 6:30 in the morning. This wouldn’t be too bad, but some brainiac decided that it would be best if we stayed on the other side of town.
We stayed at the Embassy Suites, which was a great hotel. They had just finished renovating it, and everything was fancy and clean and working. Each morning, they provide guests with complimentary issues of USA Today and breakfast. At least that is what I was told…I left the hotel each morning long before I had a chance to partake in such frivolous luxuries. I was, fortunately, able to participate in the Manager’s Happy Hour in the evening where the liquor flowed free (as did the mixer to water it down). Ne’ertheless, I still had to get up at the ridiculous time of 4:30, and what with being so far above sea level, it was bone-chillingly cold at the crack of dawn. This would have been OK had I thought to ask about the temps—instead, I only packed summer attire. Likewise, I failed to recognize that a mile above the ocean the mosquitoes would be even fiercer. They have vampire skeeters there, and I was bitten up like a mofo!
The Rocky Mountain Balloon Festival was pretty cool. The closest I’d ever been to a hot air balloon before that was the “hot air balloon” my mom made for me to “ride” in when I played the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz in first grade. That was a laundry basket that she had cut the bottom out of and attached suspenders (à la the cartoons where the dude is naked and wearing a barrel). She also attached balloons on strings to simulate the sandbags, and somehow (my memory is foggy this many years removed) she hitched an oversized umbrella to make the balloon. (My mother is much more creative and resourceful than she has ever given herself credit for.) So, imagine my surprise when I learned a) they don’t use sandbags, b) balloons are really fucking big, and c) the baskets don’t have holes in the bottom!
Of course I wanted to go in one. I had just come off the rush of hang gliding (read all about it here: What I did on Saturday), and I wanted to tick off another thing on my Things to Do Before I Die list. I had no idea how to do this. Did one just walk up and ask? Did I have to pay? Was there any chance at all? I mean, what’s the insurance liability on that, and besides I was there to work. Well, the Hombre (our truck driver) has a special way with people, and he had befriended the organizer’s husband. Said husband had offered Hombre a ride, and his response was, “No Fucking Way!” He suggested that I go in his place, and the husband said that shouldn’t be a problem. I was a little concerned to ask my supervisor (and I use that term VERY loosely) if I could go, but it turned out that she had also scammed her way into a ride. Suddenly, the trip was worth the 4:30 wake-up calls and the killer skeeters…I was going to go for a ride in a balloon.
So, I get to the pilots’ tent around 6:00 the next morning, just like the dude told me to, and he looked around and randomly selected a pilot for me to go with. I have to be honest, I was a little apprehensive, not that he didn’t look like he was competent, but he didn’t look all that interested. Just as I finished shaking hands with the Captain who I would be trusting with my life, the morning announcements began, and as I didn’t want to lose site of the Captain, I stayed by his side. As the announcements were being made, they said something I didn’t understand. I must have made a face, for the Captain leaned in and explained. He seemed to have an air about him now that he was excited about having a ballooning virgin to take under his wing. After the announcements, we headed out to where his balloon was, and I ventured a few more questions. I had been mistaken. What I took for nonchalance now seemed more like lack of coffee or that he still needed to wake up a bit, for as we walked across the field, he became more animated and excited to fill me in on the goings-on of the ballooning world.
We finally arrived at his trailer, and I learned the name of the balloon that would be taking my virginity from me (it’s always nice to know her name as you never forget your first). I also met the rest of his crew. It never occurred to me that there would be so many people involved. Our balloon (yes, I said “Our”—I already was beginning to feel a sense of kinship) was a relatively small one, and the basket only held 3 people. But, there were still 6 crew. It took several people just to get the basket out of the trailer. Then you needed someone to drive the chase van, for you never really knew where you were going to land. In an ideal world, I learned, you land as close as possible to where you took off, but the winds don’t always cooperate, so you need to be prepared. Also, the envelope (balloon-speak for the balloon itself) weighs a freaking ton, so it, too, takes several people to haul it out of the truck or to stow it back in its place. The crew was busy pulling out the balloon and laying it out, situating the fan (another thing I learned…they “cold inflate” the “envelope” first with a large, high-powered fan before using hot air), and generally getting everything ready to go. We all had to sign a waver, of course, and I dutifully complied. I also took a ton of pictures of the balloon being inflated and getting ready to go.
Once the balloon was cold inflated, the person who assigns lift-offs walked around and did whatever needed to be done. Once we were ready, we could take off at our leisure. The Captain had just tipped the basket upright, and in so doing got the envelope to stand up, when the crew told me to jump in. Seconds before taking off, someone stuck a baseball cap on my head…it was a good thing. It gets freaking hot when the burner blows.
So, the question that is on everyone’s mind who has yet to go in a hot air balloon is, “how was it?” I’m not really sure how to answer it. Anticlimactic is the best I can do. Sure it was fun and I had a great time, but honestly, there was something missing. I think it didn’t have that adrenaline rush feel that you would think would come with being suspended in the air by nothing but a few ropes attached to a large balloon. By the time you get into the basket, the balloon is already filled with hot air and ready to go. As such, all that was needed once we were cleared for take-off was another blast. I was so busy looking around, I didn’t notice that the ground was receding. That, I think, was the problem: you don’t feel anything. It’s so incredibly gentle. Because balloons glide with the wind, you don’t feel the air. In fact, they say that you can light a match, and it won’t go out because there is no wind in the basket. The Captain’s wife (who was the third person in the basket with us) said that she loves to go flying because it is so calm, gentle, and serene. She is absolutely right. We were just sort of floating there in the air 1,000 feet above the ground, and at 7:30 in the morning, the world was calm, peaceful, and beautiful. Then, in an effort to keep that moment, the Captain switched the burners on.
Now, you need to understand that the Captain is firing the burners regularly. I didn’t realize that you have more control over the balloon than one might think. You use the wind and shifts in the wind to help you go up and stay aloft, but you also use the burners to get you up and down to find the wind currents. But you also use that to keep the air hot. Don’t forget that at 1,000 feet above the ground (and don’t forget the ground was already over 2,000 feet above sea level), the air gets cold, so it takes a lot of heat to keep the air inside the envelope hot enough to keep you in the air. So, as I said, the burner is going regularly. The upside is that you get to stay in the air. The downside is that it’s really f’ing loud, and you can’t really anything when they’re firing. Also, it’s crazy hot…and when you have a really bad sunburn on your face and arms…yea, not so pleasant.
We flew about a ½ hour to 45 minutes, and we climbed to about 1,200 feet but averaged about 1,000 feet.
We settled gently down in a field about 3ish miles from where we took off. We hung out in the basket waiting for the chase crew to come pick us up. Once they arrived, we laid the basket on its side, dropped the balloon, and started to pack it up. At this point, they put me to work to earn my ride. I was eager to help, and after they snapped a few pics of me “working,” they pushed me out of the way and got to work in earnest. We folded the balloon and put it back in its bag. In an effort to pack it in, we all grabbed a piece of the bag and lifted the outer edges, then we did it again, then we started to do it a 3rd time, and as we began to lift, everyone let go…everyone but the uninitiated, and that would be me. S’all good, though.
After getting back to the show site, I was informed by the crew that I needed to head back for initiation and breakfast (yes, don’t forget that the clock hadn’t even struck 9 am at this point). I was a little concerned because I still hadn’t reported for work, but neither had my friend (excuse me, my Supervisor). She reported to her balloon, and was told that it didn’t look like she was going to make it, but at the last minute, she was able to climb aboard and got to go as well.
I hung out at the exhibit for a few minutes, and then the Captain came to get me. We headed back over to where the balloonists’ trailers were now situated for tailgating, and I hung out while everyone got things ready for breakfast. Breakfast consisted of omelettes made in Ziploc® bags. They were pretty awesome. But before we could eat the omelettes, there was the matter of initiation. As I mentioned, I was a ballooning virgin, and as with most specialized communities, there are initiations for the neophyte.
I think that tradition and ritual are extremely important, and if you are going to do them, you really ought to do them right. As I said, the actual flight in the balloon was great, but was less thrilling than I had expected. I am so incredibly grateful that I had the captain and crew that I did because while I can talk about the actual flight as an independent experience, I really feel that the whole time I spent with the group is all part and parcel. As such, because they welcomed me to fly with them, because they took me in and invited me to their tailgating, and because they took the traditions so seriously, the overall experience was an incredible one, and I won’t soon forget it. After comparing notes with the Supervisor, I definitely had a better overall experience.
So, as most initiations are supposed to be a surprise to the initiate, I will not go into details. All I will say is that it included the history of ballooning, an explanation of why champagne is important to the hobby, and, of course, a champagne toast. If you want to know more, go in a hot air balloon, and you will get initiated. The initiation, like this post, ended with the Balloonists prayer:
May the sun bless you with its warm hands.
May you fly so high and so well that God
joins you in laughter and sets you gently
back into the loving arms of Mother Earth.
I had a meeting today about the big ole event I’m planning that will occur this month on Capitol Hill. I wouldn’t say I was scared—that’s taking it a bit far, but there were probably about 30–40 folks in the room and on the telephone. Me being me, I wasn’t too well prepared. I drafted up a packet that has all kinds of information in it like what to wear, when to arrive, talking points, floor plans and other fun stuff.
For the meeting I went over that packet and answered questions from the crowd. Overall it went well, and I actually had several people tell me that it went very well and that I did a good job. I was informed by one of the people in my office, however, that I had uttered the word basically 13 times and the word significant or significantly 5 times. That’s pretty bad. At first I was a bit embarrassed, but when I asked her how many times I said um, uhh, or like, she said not enough to worry about.
So, basically, I think it’s significant that of the 1,000s of words I probably used in the meeting, significantly few were basically, significant or significantly, and I didn’t use the dreaded um, uhh, or like enough to be noticed. I’d say that’s pretty damn significant.
Tomorrow I’m flying off to Boston with the Little Sabra. It’s our first trip together, and wouldn’t you know it, I’ve gone and gotten sick….Montezuma’s Revenge…well actually, I think it’s better to say Mohammad’s Revenge. We went for schawarma on Monday at Max’s Kosher Cafe and Marketplace. Every time I’ve been there, I’ve had the schawarma, and every time, my stomach has killed me. I really should have known better, and now all I can do is pray that I will be better before tomorrow.
Anyway, the trip should be interesting. She has some event on Sunday. Apparently, someone from her old work is retiring, and there is going to be a big gala. As my birthday is Saturday, we thought it would be fun to go out there together…sort of a long weekend vacation thing. The downside is (besides what was discussed above), we are going to be hanging out with her brother and sister-in-law. I will be meeting them for the first time, and since her parents live in Israel, it’s like de facto meeting the family. I’m sure it will be fine, but it’s still a little weird. She met my family on Memorial Day, but that was only for a few hours and it was over; I’m thinking that we will be spending most of the time with her family while we’re up there.
She still hasn’t told me if I’m going to be going with her to this event. I told her I was content either way, but I’d like to know. I’ve never been to Boston, and I’d be happy to walk around town with my camera and take pics. She said that if I hit it off with her brother, I could hang out with him. We’ll see how it goes.
At the very least, I will have a lot to write about when I get back.
Attending a work-related function and bumping into your ex-girlfriend’s mother.
Yes, I was at the Goddard event last night that I mentioned in Worship Him. I had forgotten that her mother works out there. Anyway, I was helping to stuff bags and I hear this woman say to me, “How did you get roped into doing this?”
What am I supposed to say to my ex’s mother? My ex, I might add, who I put up with for 3 long, grueling years. My ex, I might add, who had no love for me and treated me like dirt. I really wanted to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but what the fuck could you possibly think I have to say to you after your daughter hasn’t talked to me for 9 months? Do you really think I want to stand here and make small talk with you?”
Fortunately, I was saved by the fact that I was busy doing work. I was very cordial, and all I said was, “Hey, good to see you. This counts as other duties as assigned, so I’m pitching in to help.”
And I promptly walked away and avoided her the rest of the evening.
Now, I have to give her credit for being friendly and talking to me in the first place, but did she really think I was going to want to talk to her?
We had a big event at the National Air and Space Museum that was sponsored by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I worked the tables that held people’s nametags. Although I didn’t get to meet him, I saw James Cameron walk past my table, and had the guy working the table with me not said, “oh, look, there goes James Cameron,” I doubt seriously that I would have known who the heck he was. But it was still cool. There were some other Senators and Congressmen, but no one I recognized.
As is always true with these events, the food was de-lish, the wine wasn’t bad, and the beer was drinkable. They had pierogies, steak, corn, rice, salad, salmon, crab cakes, marinated chicken on a stick, veggies and fruit, and an open bar. They had really cool glasses, and I really wanted service for four, but it didn’t work out that way. I do live in a 1-bedroom apartment, and it’s usually only me drinking wine, so it’s all good.
The evening’s presentation began at 8 pm, so I left shortly after 8, as my job working the table was over. I was told to put in 3.5 hours of overtime. Now I know that I’m going to get reprimanded for this from the office I officially work for, but what can I do when my immediate supervisor tells me to do it? The last event I worked I got yelled at for doing overtime, but in the end I still got my money. So, if they want to yell at me, I figure it’s fine as long as they pay me my OT.
I got about halfway to the L’Enfant Plaza station when I decided that I really just didn’t want to go home. So, I called the SugarDaddy, as I haven’t seen him in ages, and because of the holidays, I won’t see him until next week. He was out at the DIK Bar supposedly reading the paper and having a drink. So, I decided to join him for a drink before I headed home.
I got down to the L’Enfant Plaza station, and I knew that something was wrong with me…I just chalked it up to the 2 glasses of wine, 1 glass of beer, and 1 glass of sprite. By the time I got to Metro Center, I was sweating profusely, and my stomach started churning. Somehow, I have no idea how, I made it to 17th Street. About a block before the bar, my stomach lurched and the situation went all pear shaped. I knew that there was no time to get back to the Metro and head home, so I needed to face my fears, and hope for the best (for a better understanding of what was going through my mind at this moment, see Desecration). Fortunately, the Dupont Italian Kitchen has a private bathroom downstairs, right when you walk in. I bolted straight for it. Even in my pain and fear of the repercussions if I was too slow, I was able to appreciate the relative cleanliness of this public facility. The biggest problem was the puddle around the base of the commode.
I will not venture into too gory of details, so let’s just say that I did make it in time. There were some lingering effects, however. My ass felt dirty from sitting on a public toilet, and thanks to the aforementioned puddle, I decided to put my pants right into the dry clean pile. I have no idea if they touched the puddle or not, but I’m not taking any chances. So, even though I had just clipped the tag off them that morning, right back into the dry cleaning pile they went.
Once I had washed my hands, tucked in my shirt, and straightened my tie, I headed upstairs to find the SugarDaddy. I found him at the bar, drunk and flirting (good for him—I would have been right there with him, but alas, I was still having some residual effects from the trauma). I drank copious amounts of water that evening, and in the end had a great time. It turned out to be Karaoke night, and we had a great time singing: Jo Cose off-key, SugarDaddy hoarse, and the one being flirted to off beat. It was great.
On the way back to the Metro, SugarDaddy and I argued whether or not it was acceptable to Google someone to find out more info about them. He is adamantly opposed to this practice. He believes in face-to-face communication and feels that if you want to know something about a person, you should just ask them. I told him that I had done it, and used a blind date that I went on as an example. His rebuttal was to ask the point of the date if I was going to learn things from the internet instead of asking the girl. Then I asked him what he thought about my Googling the two profs I’m looking at in the UK? He said that was different since I was looking for their ranking in academia: publications, conferences, etc. I think he made a strong and valid argument. And, I figure if his reaction to be freaked out, offended, and angry over it is normal, then I don’t think I will ever do it again. Fortunately, I really only do it for one reason: to try to find an email address or phone number of friends I have lost track of…not to pry into other people’s lives or to try to “get to know them” without having to do the work of being their friend.
Unfortunately, due to single tracking on the Red Line (and the fact that we didn’t leave until 11:15), I didn’t get home until after midnight, and I am completely knackered!
I have the next two days off of work so that is good, but I don’t think I will be getting any sleep.