So the weekend went pretty well.
I took Friday off, and lounged around, cleaned a little, packed a little, and finally made my way to West Falls Church-VT/UVA Metro station. I hung out there doing a crossword for about ½ hour to 45 minutes before the Sabra arrived (she couldn’t get time off work). We boarded the Washington Flyer and headed to Dulles International Airport. All went smoothly until we got to security. Now, I have flown a lot in my life, and I’ve very rarely been searched; in fact, I am pretty sure that I do not fit any of the current profiles. On the other hand, there is the Sabra. True, her accent is Hebrew and not Arabic, but do you really think the Haitian, Dominican, or Ecuadorian TSA agent really knows the difference betwixt Hebrew and Arabic accents? I don’t think so. So, as you have guessed, the foreigner with the Middle Eastern accent was able to walk right on through without any problems.
So, yes, I—who is, I might add, 100% pure-blooded American—get stopped at security, and they require a baggage check of me. I expect that they are going to pull out my backpack, which was loaded with all kinds of electronic equipment, any of which could have been pieces of some unconventional weapon. But no, my computer, camera, lenses, cables, iPod, headphones, cell phone, blackberry, electric razor, adapters are all OK. What are these brainiacs who are protecting American skyways looking for in my bags? What weapon of mass destruction did they want to confiscate? Would you believe it wasn’t anything electronic, nor sharp, not even anything ticking. No, it was in fact my nearly empty tube of Crest. Admittedly, it WAS the new Pro-Health kind. They also took my nearly empty tube of shaving gel.
So, as I’m retying my shoes, and putting my tighty-whities and socks back into the suitcase, I was free to go and ponder this recent event. The first thing I thought was that if I actually knew how to take a plane down with nothing but an almost empty tube of toothpaste and an equally almost empty tube of shaving gel, I’d probably be a very wealthy man. Instead, I was in reality nothing more than an embarrassed average joe. Oh well.
We finally made it through security, found our gate, and just had time to get an Auntie Anne’s pretzel. Our plane was a little delayed and moved to a different gate (one down) because of some problem with a flight completely unrelated to ours. Once we get onboard, we sit down, and meet a very nice guy who was on the last leg of his journey. He had been flying for 20something hours from Singapore. One row ahead and on the starboard side (we were on the port side) was a screaming baby. I was ready to kill, but the Sabra kept calming me down. We finally roll out to the tarmac and get in line to take off when we learn that there are major delay due to electrical storms somewhere over New York. We ended up sitting on the tarmac for over 2 hours. The pilot came on and said that they were considering returning to the gate, but then we would lose our place in line. Before he could make up his mind, we got the all clear, and off we went into the wild blue yonder. It really wasn’t so bad, we ended up getting in around 7 instead of 5.
The Little Sabra’s brother and sister-in-law met us at the airport, and off we went to dinner. As we drove from the airport to the restaurant, I got the rather entertaining tour of the town. Beside the fact that it was dark and I couldn’t see anything, I’m not so sure they really had their bearings, the Bro would say look to your left, and the sis-in-law would say no, that’s further down, and the Sabra would say “are you sure we didn’t just pass it?” Like I said, very entertaining. If they weren’t pointing out landmarks, we were all chatting and getting to know each other. They seem like fun people, and we spent most of the ride laughing.
Dinner was at a frou-frou Indian restaurant. I had, of course, a biryani. It was quite delish. Believe it or not, I couldn’t finish it. The Sabra also had biryani, but her’s was vegetarian (of course). We got doggie bags. After dinner, we walked over to an ice cream shop, but only the sis-in-law got anything. So, back into the car. I was offered a quick driving tour of town, and as I’ve never been to Beantown, I took them up on their offer. We drove past Cheers, and Boston Common, and over the Charles River, and other places until we finally got to the hotel. It was way late, and we went to bed.
Saturday morning, we got up, ate breakfast, and walked. We walked all over town. From Beacon Hill to Little Italy, and then over to some water and into a produce market (a la Machnay Yehuda in Jerusalem), and back to the hotel. I honestly have no idea where all we went, but there are pics on the Photoblog. We were out and about all day. It was so nice to be a tourist. We met some interesting people, some not so friendly people, and some just odd people.
We eventually made it back to the hotel, where we refreshed and met her kinfolk again for dinner. We went again to a frou-frou place, this time for sushi. I think we all really liked the restaurant: it had great atmosphere, the service was good, and the food came out in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, as is the case in the more expensive restaurants, it was rather over priced, and the portions were very small. Nevertheless, as I said, it was quite tasty, and I think we all enjoyed what we ordered. From the restaurant, we drove back to her sibling's apartment, left the car, and headed into their neighborhood, and proceed to drink. We were all pretty toasted, and the Sabra and I got a cab and headed back to the hotel to go to sleep.
Sunday arrived, and we set out for the retirement party that originally brought us to Boston in the first place. We took the T from the hotel to her brother’s apartment, and that was cool because I love subways. There was construction on the track, so we had to get off and get on a bus and get back on the trolley. We got back on the trolley at the wrong station and the guy tried to make us pay again. We didn’t. We finally got to her brother’s and we all set out to find the place where the event was. That, too, was a drama as he and his wife had no idea where we were headed, and we got sort of lost (sort of because they still basically knew where we were going).
So, once we got to the event, it was quite nice. Even though I didn’t know anyone, it was still pretty emotional. It wasn’t hard to see that at least 200 people showed up to wish this woman good-bye. She apparently built the organization and ran it for 15 years. The program was pretty good. Most of the people who spoke were entertaining. Her replacement spoke, and it truly boggled my mind that someone so bad at public speaking could be the one selected to take the reins. I don’t mean to imply that he was inarticulate; quite the contrary in fact, he seemed sharp as a tack, but he was clearly not comfortable speaking in front of that many people. They showed a video that someone had put together. I think if I knew even 1 person in the video it would have been good, but since I didn’t, I watched with a more technical eye, and could see that it was entirely too long. I understand that these projects are made with emotions running high, but even the folks who know everyone in the video were getting bored because it was running a tad too long.
We walked around a bit talking to some fascinating people. There was one professor who was married to another woman and their daughter seems to have some personal problems (imagine, with 2 professor, hippy, wacky moms, I’d be shocked if she DIDN’T have problems). There was another woman who was excited to tell us that she had taken her wife’s name. Then there was the woman who lives down the street from the Sabra, tried for the Sabra’s job, and runs a business not unlike one of my ideas. These were truly interesting characters, and I think someone like LtL could have found a mother lode of material for his writing.
We finally said our last good-byes and headed to the airport. We were running late, and time was of the essence. So, naturally, we hit mad, mad traffic. The long and short of it is that we missed our flight home, and after much debate, we decided that it was worth paying an extra $100 each and getting home Sunday night instead of getting a hotel and being back at that airport by 5 am on Monday.
We flew into Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport around 7 that night and were back at my apartment before 9. Even with the strip search and delay and screaming kid and traffic, I had a great time meeting her brother and sister-in-law and seeing Boston and riding on the T and taking pictures. All in all, it was a fun weekend, and I do hope that we do more of these weekend excursions.
I just noticed that it's been ages since I've posted anything. This is really even more inexcusable when you realize that I've been doing fuckall at work for months now.
Anyway, things that have happened since last I posted:
- I took my buddy out for his bachelor party. I actually started to write this up, but when I got to the part where we went to the tittie bar, I decided that maybe I shouldn't actually post it. Needless to say, we had a great time looking at naked women! We headed over to the Block (Baltimore's Red Light District) for old time's sake. We went to some dive and this 40something-year old skanky crack-whore slides up to me and asks me to buy her a drink. I play along and say, "sure." Fucking twenty fucking five fucking dollars for a fucking drink! I was pissed! That pretty much ended the evening. We headed back to my buddy's house and smoked cigars.
- The aforementioned buddy's wedding. RC came in on Friday, and we headed over to the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner...that was good times. We had chinese food, and I haven't had chinese food (except for the fast food joint near Chez Jo Cose). Saturday we got up and headed to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian, and walked around that, then we did some other stuff I can't remember just now, and in the evening, we met the 'rents, headed into Old Town, VA, met my sister, and had dinner at Landini Brothers (an awesome northern Italian restaurant). After dinner my sister split and the four of us went to a paino bar where we met up with another friend of mine and his partner. Fun was had by all.
- Sunday was the wedding. It was a very nice affair. It was the 3rd wedding I've been a part of in the past 15 months, and it was the first that was fully Jewish, so that was nice. My speech went off without a hitch for the most part. I offended one person, but I suppose that that is life, you can't win them all. The Bride and Groom were happy and entertained, and that really is all that matters. I drank way too much gin. After the wedding, the Bride, Groom, RC, and I went back to the hotel, cracked open some brew, and continued to celebrate.
- Monday morning we headed over to the brunch and had bagels, eggs, and blintzes. I got beat up by the kids...all seemed normal.
That's pretty much it. Now you know the rest of the story.
I just flew in from Florida and boy are my arms tired! Thank you, I’ll be here all night. Don’t forget to tip your waitress.
Seriously, though, I was among the few in my office who were privileged to go down to the Kennedy Space Center to see the Return to Flight launch of Space Shuttle Discovery. Sadly, as you surely know, the launch got scrubbed because of some sensor. Everyone says that it’s better that we are being very careful, but I’m sure that the astronauts just want to get back to what it is that they are trained for.
It wasn’t a completely wasted trip, though. I got to eat at some really good places, and got to do some fun stuff. We had breakfast twice at the Simply Delicious Cafe and Bakery. It was very yummy, and I’m quite sure that RC would have loved it. It very much screamed of her: they served their orange juice in margarita glasses. We also had BBQ, but it wasn’t the greatest. I walked for about an hour on the beach. That was very nice. And I was in Cocoa Beach for a few days (days, I might mention, which may have otherwise found me in my office).
My hotel was awful! I had the distinct misfortune to stay at the Best Western. To say that it sucked would be saying nice things about it. When we got there, we checked in, and I headed to my room to drop off my luggage. I walked into the room, and before I could even let go of my luggage, I turned around and walked out. It smelled so unbelievably foul. It was a smoking room, and it clearly had been used as such for hundreds of years. I headed across the street to the lobby (yes, the lobby was in its own building across the street). The guy behind the counter told me that there was nothing he could do because the hotel was fully booked. I told him that there was no way that I would be able to stay in the room. He told me that I had to speak with the guy from NASA who booked the room. So, I called said person, and he assured me that he would fix the problem as soon as he got there. He was at the Best Western within minutes, and pitched such a fit that they finally caved in and switched me with someone who hadn’t yet registered. My new room wasn’t too much better, but at least it didn’t reek as strongly. The day before we flew out, I went over to the lobby to use the computer and check in at the airline's website. I printed out my boarding pass and headed back to my room. When I got there, I swiped my keycard and nothing happened. I tried again, and still nothing. Finally, after the third time, I started back to the lobby to tell them that something was wrong with my keycard, when some guy and his kid got out of a truck and said, “hey, is that your stuff sprawled on the bed?” Um, yea. Those stupid fucks resold my room before I checked out of it. The other guy and his kid lucked out because the hotel gave them a free upgrade to an oceanfront room. What did I get? I got a new keycard.
The first evening we split up. Several of the gang went out for Cuban; I wanted to go to the receptions, so I opted out (it turned out they never made it). The SEAL Leader, the Virginian, and I went to crash some receptions. We headed over to the Double tree (interestingly enough it was the same Double tree I stayed at last year when I came down to see the MESSENGER launch. See busy weekend part 3 for that story). We couldn’t get into one because the bouncers asked us for our invitations, and we had none, so we pretended that we were just looking around and slowly backed towards the door. We went around the corner to the bar and there we found another party that we were allowed to attend. They had pretty good food: shrimp, chicken, roast beef, sushi, and really, really good cheese cake. Oh, yeah, and it was an open bar.
Later that night the SEAL Leader and I drove onto base and got as close as we could to Discovery, but like the dumb ass that I am, I didn’t bring my camera down at all. Even still, it’s a memory I will have for a long time. We drove up as close as we could get with our Headquarters badges. The guard house was on a road that looked directly toward the pad, and as we approached the checkpoint, there it was, lit up like daylight. It was such an amazing sight to see. I know that I have little (in fact nothing really) to do directly with getting the Shuttle into orbit, but damn if it didn’t bring a tear of pride to my eye to see that bright white Shuttle mated to the Halloween-Orange External Tank, the two white pencil-like boosters on either side. It was so cool. It looked just like a postcard except that it was bigger, more real, and more awe inspiring.
The next morning, 4 of us headed to Grouper’s Corner to assist visitors getting onto busses that would ferry them out to the Causeway. Two of us stayed behind to be at the point of embarkation, and the other two headed out to the Causeway to be on the other end. It was really, friggin’ hot; fortunately, we had water in the van.
At some point very close to the launch, 2 guys came up to us livid. Apparently one was the son of a Congressman, and he had gotten the run-around about where he was supposed to be. He believed that he was supposed to be at the Banana Creek site (where all the VIPs were), but the list showed him as being at the Causeway. Several days ago, I was instructed to call all of the Congressmen who had RSVPed that they were planning on going to the launch and checking to see if they were having family coming separately. The point of these calls was to give them info on how we would get all the Members together with their families. As such, I felt that whether or not Junior’s father was in attendance, he should in fact be at the Banana Creek site. I tried to call several people, but signal strength is quite farkackt down there, so of course I couldn’t get anyone and had to leave messages. Finally, I was able to get through to someone who told me to get them to the area where the busses were picking up folks to go to Banana Creek. So, Junior, his friend, and I jumped into the van and headed out to the other site. Fortunately, Junior and his buddy had done this drive twice before, so they were able to direct me. Rather effortlessly we made it, and I ignored a guard who told me I couldn’t park in that lot. As the time was growing short, and there would have been no way to get back to Grouper’s Corner before the last bus headed out to the Causeway, I was told to just get on the bus that was heading out to Banana Creek. The bus pulled out, and turned onto the main road. As soon as the bus righted itself, it had to stop at the checkpoint. One of the ladies on the bus showed the guard our pass, and at that moment we got the call that the launch was scrubbed, so the driver just made a right back into the parking lot. Junior and his buddy wanted to get back on the road, so I drove them back to Grouper’s Corner (where they had left their car).
The rest of the night was pretty uneventful; we sat around and told war stories about what happened and what would likely happen in the coming days. I was told that there was little chance of me getting to go back whenever the launch finally happens. I figured as much, and that is fine with me. Even though it didn’t launch, it was still pretty cool to be here for the excitement. I’m sure that if I’m still at NASA, I will have other opportunities to see a shuttle launch.
I was sabotaged!
I brought my lunch to work on Friday, but ended up going to McDonald’s instead. I came to work yesterday (Monday) with the intention of eating the aforementioned lunch that I had brought on Friday. Alas, it was not meant to be: it was the Hispanic Girl’s birthday on Friday, but since she wasn’t at work on Friday, we celebrated on Monday. We went to the Columbia Café. OK, no problem, I woke up with every intention of eating my lunch today. I went down to the refrigerator, pulled out my lunch and discovered that my soup had leaked pretty badly. So, I decided to just throw the whole thing out (I did salvage my silverware). The tub of pudding and bottle of water were soaked; I didn’t think it was worth saving. Also, I figured that if my container was leaking, it wasn’t worth saving that either. I’m sure that since it was in the fridge the whole time that it was probably OK, but as it wasn’t sealed, I decided not to take any chances.
I had a BLT instead.
We had yet another party today. This time it was a Thank-You-For-A-Damn-Good-Job-These-Past-Few-Weeks party. I did not partake in the champagne (even if it was more than $5 per bottle). But I did eat some chips and salsa.
As I was sitting here at my desk, I noticed that I spilled some on my shirt. There really is little else in the world more embarrassing than a fat man with food stains on his shirt. Oh, well. C’est la vie.
It’s 4:15 and I haven’t gotten yelled at yet, so that makes today a good day. It actually started out pretty good. We had our meeting at 9, and at 9:30 (still in the meeting) we had champagne. We had some Cheese Puffs left over from a birthday party we had yesterday. Ahhhh. Champagne and Cheese Puffs—breakfast of champions!
But, before I let the whole meeting and calendar issue go, I have one more thing:
The Ring Lady tells me after today’s meeting that as per the boss’s comment, we should go ahead and schedule the next meeting for next Friday (10/1) as she will be out of town all next week. So, I do, and of course people have problems (there is a NASA Golf Outing that Friday). So, I go into the Ring Lady’s office and say “I wasn’t sure what you wanted me to do. The Golf tourney is on Friday, and you had wanted the meeting on Friday so you could attend.” She told me to look over the Boss’s calendar and find a good time on his calendar, and if it was on one of the days she was out of town, she would just have to miss it.
So, is she schizo? Did she know about the champagne and didn’t want to miss that? Or did a new memo that said we are reverting back to the old memo go out and I missed that one too?
Errggg, it’s so hard to keep it all straight when it changes daily. Daily? Did I say daily? I meant hourly.
Anyway, it’s beautiful out again today, and I wanted steak last night and didn’t get it, so I’m thinking I could go for some Indian. But where? That is always the question. I do have a book waiting for me at Barnes and Noble in Bethesda and there is a fairly decent Indian restaurant right next door.
We shall see…
So, yesterday, one of the secretaries comes up to me and asks if I want to pitch in for the lunch party we are throwing for our summer intern who is leaving and another secretary who is also leaving. She tells me that it will be $10. I think that this is absurd, but I say nothing. I then get an email that an old man is retiring and that if I want to attend the party it will be $12 (gift included).
So, here I am, a mere GS-07 making pittance, and now they want me to pay $22 for parties for people I barely know. I don't really have the money this week, and a party was the last thing that I planned to spend $22 on.
So, now I'm in a position where I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't. I look like a dick if I say, "No, sorry I'm not going to give money." And I look like a dick if I come to the party without paying (because you know people would say, "Why aren't you at the party?").
So, I suck it up and pay my $20 (I only had that much and my $2 wasn't going to make or break the party).
Today, I go to the party, and, as expected, I do NOT get $10 out of lunch, but there is actually a ton of food left, so I could if I wanted to, but ...
Along come folks from all over the building. I swear, these odious, cheap leeches can smell food across the building and several floors up. We are on the 9th floor and these abhorrent creatures come crawling up from the 2nd and 4th to scavenge our food. Now, if I had known that after the party it was a free for all, why the fuck should I have paid my $10? They didn't pay!
And people ask me why I hate working where I do.