Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Weekend Escape

Last week, Thursday, after checking the weather for South Florida, I decided to make a last minute trip to Fort Lauderdale.  I usually stay at the Westin Diplomat in Hollywood when I'm in town.  The Diplomat has one of the best pools in the area, great rooms, a nice steak house, a sports bar across A1A on the Intercoastal, and a quiet stretch of beach.  It's also known for its Platinum recognition, which usually means I can book the cheapest room available and generally count on getting a free upgrade to an ocean front suite.  In short, it's one of my favorite Starwood properties in the country.  Last weekend, however, the Diplomat was sold out.  So I decided to give the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort a shot.

I left the office around 4:00 and checked in at DCA by 4:30.  In time for a few pre-flight cocktails and some seared ahi at Sam & Harry's.  My flight was scheduled for 5:55, and I got through security in less than 5 minutes.  Recently, on occasion, you now show up at security and get ushered straight through -- no removing shoes, jackets or belts . . . no removing laptop from bag.  You just make it through the metal detector and your done.  This was one of those night.  Which meant I had time for one more beer.  

So, now it's 5:40 . . . last call for boarding.  I've had 4 Miller Lites in an hour.  I'm playing with fire.  Counting on an on-time take off and being able to use the bathroom quickly once in the air.  

QUICK ASIDE: I've had some "bladder-busting" close calls on planes in my day.  Times where I almost prayed for a crash just so I could reach the ground and not have to deal with the pain anymore.  The worst occurred shortly after 9/11.  It was a saturday afternoon.  I was flying from DCA to LaGuardia for a quick day trip to catch the 7:05 first pitch at Shea Stadium.  I got to the airport early and promptly started the party.  I probably had 6 or 7 beers and then boarded the USAIR shuttle to NYC.  It was sunny in D.C., and the plane timely taxied from the gate.  However, as we get in line to take off, the engines suddenly die.  The pilot gets on the horn and informs that, as is often the case during the summer, there were thunderstorms in the New York area, and there was a ground stop at LGA.  So, there we are, stuck idle on an "active taxi-way," unable to get out of our seats.  After half an hour, panic starts to set in.  I've already got to take a leak.  And we haven't even taken off yet.  In fact, there is no sign of us being able to take off any time soon.  And, this was soon after 9/11, when the FAA implemented new regulations for flights involving NY and DC.  You were no longer allowed to leave your seat for the first and/or last 20 minutes of a flight into or out of either area airports.  And, on a short shuttle flight between NY and DC, this basically meant you had to remain seated the entire time.   Thus, for me, this meant I would not be able to use the bathroom until we hit the airport at LaGuardia.  I knew I could not make it this long.  So . . . eventually, we get the all clear to take off and get back in line on the tarmac.  We're like 8th in line.  Still well over an hour from relief.  I'm already shifting in my seat, trying to deal with the pain.  Full. Blown.  Panic.  Since it was an afternoon Saturday shuttle flight, the plane was not full.  In fact, there was no one sitting in the two seats next to me.  Just one woman in my row across on the aisle from me.  I start considering just pissing myself right there in my seat.  I mean, it was basically my only viable option.  I figured I could use the inflight magazine to shield the issue.  The plane now takes off and we are airborne.  And I'm playing with the magazine trying to decide how obvious it would be if I did piss myself.  Sure, it would be obvious when we landed and got off the plane.  But I wasn't thinking that far ahead.  I was focused on the here and now . . . wondering whether the flight attendant would notice when she came around for beverages . . .  About ten minutes in, the the bell goes off . . . both on the plane and in my head.  I seem to recall hearing something on the news about the FAA dropping the in-flight regulation about 20-in / 20-out of NY/DC.  A flight attendant then walks down the aisle and I ask her, urgently - "CAN WE GET UP ON THIS FLIGHT?!??!?"  She shakes her head in the affirmative and says, "when the fasten seatbelt sign goes off."  JACKPOT!!!  Well, she was barely passed my row when I jumped up and made a dash for the head.  Sure, I didn't want to risk arrest for violating FAA security regulation . . .  but I'd take my chances with some turbulence....    I took away an important lesson from that flight - switch from beer to scotch during the last 30 minutes before boarding!

Well, a decade later, I briefly forgot the lesson.  I drank beer right up until boarding Friday.  And, of course, as soon as the plane pulls out from the gate (for a sweet, sweet USAIRWAYS "on time" departure), it starts pouring out.  We are delayed.  And I'm in trouble.  About 30 minutes later, we finally take off.  We're 15 minutes airborne, but the captain leaves on the fasten seatbelt sign due to storm-related turbulence.   I've had enough.  I'll take my chances.  I hop up from my seat in row 11 and make my way to the back of the plane.  But when I get there, the male flight attendant steps in front of the bathroom door and sternly directs me back to my seat.  Fuck!!!!  Now, usually, if you get up with the seat belt sign on, you'll get quick lecture about staying in your seat; but the flight attendant will still let you use the head.  Not this time.  Dude means bid'ness.  I return to my seat.

20 minutes later, the seat belt sign is still on, when I notice two people get up, walk down the aisle and use the bathroom.  I wait a minute, and decide, "fuck it;"  I get up and make a second attempt.  Again, I get nearly to the back of the plane when the same flight attendant cuts me off and says "Sir, the seatbelt sign is STILL ON."  But . . . but . . . but . . . what about the two people that just used the head????  Again, being an officer of the court and a man of the law, I respect his "authority" and slink back to my seat.  Fortunately, 5 minutes later, the sign goes off and I'm first down the aisle . . .

30 minutes later, my friend comes by with beverage service.  I order a bud light, and take out my credit card to pay.  Dude says, "sir,  I appreciate you not giving me a hassle before  . . . this round's on me . . ."  I guess that constitutes a happy ending . . .

I arrived at Fort Lauderdale around 9:00 Friday night and checked in at the Westin.  I had again booked the cheapest room available - a low floor, "city view" --  and was counting on an upgrade.  As the hotel was at capacity, there were no suites available by the time I check-in late in the evening.  I did, however, snag an upgrade to a 10th floor ocean view corner room with views of both the ocean and inter coastal.   And, after heading out on the town for a late dinner and a few more drinks, I woke up to this view in the am:

After a quick 4 mile run Saturday morning, I spent spent 6 hours at the beach.  The weather was perfect all weekend - mid 80's -- and the water was fantastic.  

This was my first trip to Fort Lauderdale beach.  It was much more happening than Hollywood.  Not exactly the party that South Beach is; but a party none-the-less.   Lots of touristy bars and restaurants.    I grabbed dinner Saturday night at a decent sushi joint, and spent the evening listening to live music and watching sports at tourist trap called Lu Lu's Bait Shack.  It was a good time.

Sunday was more of the same . . .  ocean . .  pool . . . beers and baseball.  And the weekend was capped off with a 16 ounce bone-in filet at the steak house at the W Hotel, followed by some cabernet and Sunday Night Baseball at Shula's on the Beach back at the Westin.

Yesterday morning started with a 4:30 am alarm and an early flight back to D.C.  I was back in the office by 9:45.  Exhausted.  But another successful weekend.

Next up -- Denver, Colorado this Saturday . . . Mets-Rockies series at Coors Field and a few days visiting my niece . . .

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Perks of Loyalty

I'm a loyal guy.  Like, really loyal.  At least when it comes to travel . . .

Years ago, I devoted my allegiance to Starwood Hotels . . . and to USAIRWAYS . . .  90% of my travel is with these two companies.  I always try to maintain a balance of 100,000 points with each.  Because, like, you never know when the mood is going to strike . . .

And, this morning, the mood struck for some fun in the sun.  The Ocean . . . afternoon baseball at beach-side dive bars . . . Corona Lights poolside . . .  One of my favorite ways to spend a day is in a pair of board shorts . . . nothing but a room key and credit card in my pocket . . . trolling the beach . . . jumping between the ocean and the beach bars . . .  Hard to beat.

So . . . this morning I checked the always fickle weather in South Florida . . .  mid-80's and sunny this weekend.  I checked out USAIR flights . . . round trip for 35,000 miles . . . I pulled up my SPG account . . . three nights on the beach for 30,000 points.  5 minutes later I was fully booked.  Total free roll . . . 

It ain't Vegas . . . but it won't be bad . . .

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

On The Rebound

So . . .  Last Wednesday, I got my G back . . . And, nearly two weeks after my spill on the trails, I can almost breath again without pain . . . and, despite some stress, my speech Saturday night went fine.  Things are looking up for P3 . . .

With respect to the speech, I probably put more effort into it than needed, and stressed over it more than I should have.  I finished a draft on Wednesday, and then spent a couple of hours over the next few days "massaging" parts of it.  I find that certain phrases sometimes sound good in your head, but prove difficult to speak out loud.  So, I did some practice runs and changed some wording around here and there.  By Friday night, I was fairly comfortable with it.  Then, Saturday morning, I questioned the entire tone of the thing.  While there were certainly some nice, heart-felt, sentiments involved, the first several minutes were basically a dry, sarcastic, roast, with some subtle homosexual innuendo mixed in.  I mean, if you Googled how to give a wedding toast, the outlines you'd find would look nothing like what I had prepared.  What's more, I knew that the humor would utterly bomb if not delivered with the correct pacing/timing, which, of course, would require that I not be nervous and rush through it.  So, there I was, several hours before the wedding, wondering what the fuck I had been thinking.  Ultimately, however, I stuck with it . . . limited myself to two drinks before hand (I figured if I bombed sober, people would just pity me . . . but if I bombed drunk, people would really hate me) . . . and delivered to goods.  It was actually a bit . . . like, almost . . . sort of . . . nearly . . . fun . . .  I was, however, glad to put it behind me. 

Now, I'm trying to get refocused in the office.  I've been unmotivated lately.  I've been a bit slow.  And, for whatever reason, I find it difficult to focus when I'm not slammed.  I need looming deadlines.  I prefer to be under a mountain of work, even forced to spend weekends in the office.  When I'm not, I just procrastinate.  It's a shitty feeling to be driving home after 11 hours in the office and to not have accomplished much . . . feeling like a fraud.  I need to turn my shit around.  Stat. 

So, in this vein, I cancelled my trip to Vegas that had been scheduled for this weekend.  I just don't want to miss work Friday.  You know, guys like me and TBC are all about the grind . . . Instead, I'm planning on spending Saturday/Sunday in Baltimore catching the O's / Royals series, enjoying the nice weather and an adult beverage or ten.  I may even stop by Maryland Live! Saturday morning on the drive up to grind some sweet, sweet "devils game" . . .  In the meantime, P3 has gotsta get his lawyering on . . . 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Running Bad at Life

If life were a poker game, I'd be running bad at the moment.  I mean, not like having my flopped set beaten by runner runner flush.  Not even like losing with the dumb end of the straight.  More like getting to showdown with top pair, second kicker, and seeing villain turn over top, top.  I mean, I'm not gonna quit the game for good; but I'd really like to win a hand . . .

First hand -- In November, I got rear-ended (not in a good way) on the way to work by some old Asian lady.  I was sitting in traffic in my G37 Coupe.  When traffic started moving, I decided to be a nice guy, and let some lady make a right turn into my lane in front of me.  Old Asian Lady ("OAL") must have seen traffic moving in front of me and, rather than actually waiting for me to start moving, decided she'd Must. Drive. Immediately, and rammed into the back of my car.  OAL could not have been nicer about it.  She apologized . . . recognized this would be a hassle for me . . . and was otherwise cooperative.  Hell, she even followed up the accident by leaving me a voicemail wherein she totally admitted fault and apologized.  I believe she started the message with, "Hi [P3]; I'm the nuisance who caused you much aggravation this morning . . ."  Clearly, there was no dispute as to fault.  However, OAL really, really (like, really) wanted to settle this outside of insurance.  I gathered this was not the first time she had Must. Drive. Immediately'd and plowed into someone or had otherwise done something stupid in her car (which, for the record, was some sort of 20 year old beater).  After all, as she noted, there was not a whole lot of damage to my G.  Basically, the rear bumper was dinged and there was some separation where it connected to the side panel.  Ultimately, however, after giving her offer some thought, I opted against it, and made a claim with her insurer. 

Now I'm glad I did.  I took the car in for an estimate through her insurer in December, and they cut me a check on the spot for $990.  At the time, I felt bad for not just settling with OAL as she had requested.  Three weeks ago, I finally brought the car in to the Infiniti autobody shop to get another estimate from them and to have the work done.  This time, it would cost $1,200.  OK.  I could have eaten $300.  I still felt bad for OAL. 

Now, it's three weeks later.  I still don't have my car.  Apparently, once the back bumper came off, they noticed damage to the side of the car and yada, yada, yada . . . it would cost $3,000 to fix.  Infiniti contacted OAL's insurer to get the new work approved.  That took a week.  The actual repairs took another week and a half.  At this point, had I accepted OAL's offer, the rental car cost alone would have been close to $3,000.  I no longer feel bad for not playing ball with OAL.  However, I am sick of driving a rental.  XM Radio alone makes the nearly 3 hours I spend commuting (16 miles) back and forth to work each day tolerable.  Having to listen to AM/FM for three weeks has been harder than I'd imagined.  And, unlike my G, the seats in the rental barely adjust, and my back has been fucken killing me.  I really want my car back.  And, while insurance will cover the work and most of the rental, I did opt to pay an additional $15 a day (on top of what insurance would cover) to get a slightly upgraded vehicle.  I figured, for three days, the $45 would be no big deal.  Three weeks later, in light of the upgrade and a few "minor" miscellaneous fees, I'm still going to be out of pocket a solid $500 or so. 

Hand 2 - Two weeks ago, I noticed a somewhat concerning, potential medical issue.  I won't go into much detail, aside to say that, according to Web MD, I had either sustained (a) trauma; (b) an infection; or, most troubling, (c) prostate cancer.  Two weeks later, the issue seems to be resolving.  But it created a fair amount of stress / mental preoccupation the past few weeks.  There are certain ailments you do not want to have to call up your doctor to make an appointment for.  I knew the cute receptionist would ask what the nature of the appointment was, and I was not looking forward to giving her an answer . . .  Hopefully, I will not have to . . . 

Hand 3 - My good friend of 15 years is getting married this weekend.  I'm in the wedding party.  No tuxes, but I had to buy a new light gray suit for the occasion (the groomsmen are all wearing the same).  I got a call from the store yesterday that said suit had been altered (to fit my 5' 1" frame), and decided to go pick it up during lunch.  So, I drive from downtown D.C. to the store in Rockville, and the sales gentlemen convinces me to try it on to make sure it fits. OK.  I go into the dressing room and take the suit out of the garment bag.  I immediately notice chalk marks on the pants.  On the one hand, it was good that they were able to do the alterations in a week's time.  On the other hand, it was bad that they had not, in fact, actually made any alterations.  Yep.  I try it on and discover that they had not done a thing to the suit.  Now, while the store was apologetic, it took close to 15 minutes to convince them to actually do the work in 48 hours, since I needed the suit for this weekend.  After a successful argument, I return to the dressing room to discover that, notwithstanding the fact that there are at least 5 other dressing what-ever-they-are-calleds open and readily available for use, some jackass has decided to lock himself in the one that I was using . . . the one where my pants, shoes, shirt, wallet, [rental car] keys, phone, etc., are openly displayed.  I mean, are people fucken retarded?  I wait for 5 minutes or so (even though it's the middle of the day and, like, I sort of need to get back to the office).  They guy does not come out.  So, now I'm in the awkward position of having to knock on the door and say:  "Um; sir . . . I was actually in the middle of using that room . . . those are, like, my clothes and shit in there . . ."  And, jackass actually responds somewhat aggrieved.  For real?  He ends up sliding my shit out under the door.  Whatever.  Now, I guess tomorrow night, I'll get to go back to the store and attempt to pick up the suit again.  Because, like, after a day in the office, there's nothing else I'd rather be doing.  Good game.

Hand 4 - In a related note, I learned this week that I will have the "honor" of giving the speech/toast at the wedding.  Ugh.  I think I'd rather play Hand 2 again.  I mean, I've done this a couple of times before . . . many years ago.  I hate public speaking in general.  Yes, despite being a lawyer, I really, really (like, a lot) despise speaking before crowds.  I get nervous.  I stress.  I'd rather get punched in the neck.  And, this toast comes with an added bonus - since both my friend and his [sucker] future bride are lawyers, many of the guests in attendance will be local members of the bar.  In fact, opposing counsel from my most recent case, works with his future wife and will be in attendance.  And, trust me when I say we did NOT get along during the life of the case.  Rather, every phone call was contentious, and was generally followed by a nasty letter memorializing our respective insults.  I think at one point, I actually called him "incompetent."  So far as I know, he has no idea that I am good friends with his "associate."  She was too scared to tell him during the litigation that, not only did she know me, but that I was basically best friends with her fiancĂ©.  Well, the cat will be out of the bag this weekend.  And, for some reason, this just makes me more nervous about giving this speech.  I never want to make an ass of myself . . . and I certainly don't want to give this dickhead the satisfaction of watching me humiliate myself in public.  So, notwithstanding other things on my plate at the moment, I need to spend a fair amount of time actually putting some words together for Saturday night.  If I've learned anything over the years, it's that the value of preparation cannot be overstated.  And, sadly, preparation takes time.     

Hand 5- Last Tuesday I went out for a run.  I was on a cement trail in downtown D.C., next to the Potomac River by the Watergate Hotel.  There were two very, very cute girls running in front of me.  Presumably, GW undergrads.  I'm about 4 miles in to my run, and feeling OK.  I give it some gas, and blow by them.  I'm about 100 yards ahead when, sans warning or reason, I trip over my own feet and faceplant.  Thud!  Fully cognizant of the two smoke shows close behind, I immediately get up and continue running.  I feel blood trickling down my arm and my shin.  I see the blood on my palms.  I definitely do not want them to catch me and see this.  I forge ahead, a bit dazed and shaken, but still maintaining pace.  I get back to the office and it takes about 45 minutes for the bleeding to stop.  No biggie.  Shit happens.  And I don't think I need stitches.  However, later that night, I get home and realize that I must have pulled a muscle in my rib cage during the fall.  It starts tightening up to the point I can barely lean back on the couch.  By the next morning, it's basically excruciating to try and even get out of bed.  Refusing to give in, I run again Wednesday afternoon.  Every breath is painful.  Fast forward eight days . . . it's better, but it still hurts to breath.  Another dent in my metaphorical chip-stack . . .   
In the end, none of these hands are going to stack me.  But combined, and with some late increased pressure in the office, the result is that I feel like I'm running a bit bad.  Like, to the point where I am seriously considering cancelling my trip to Vegas next Friday because I don't want to be seen out of the office for the day . . .  We shall see how it goes . . . I'm hoping the cards to turn around soon.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hitting the Keys Again

It's been a quiet few weeks . . .

Three weeks ago, I flew down to Florida to visit my parents for the weekend.  It was nearly more excitement than I could handle.  When I have more time, I'll post a blow-by-blow of the weekend, including a crazy 40-minute walk through a local nature preserve which included an alligator sighting and loads of turtles and birds.      

The following week, I organized my buddy's bachelor party here in D.C. (he's getting married the 19th).  It was two straight days of heavy drinking and debauchery.  I made a dinner reservation for 10 "gentlemen" Saturday night at Fogo de Chao.  If you've never been, it's basically all you can eat meat.  It seemed like an appropriate place for a bachelor party dinner.  Plus, there's nothing like good old fashion homosexual innuendo at a bachelor party, and I was looking forward to getting tanked and demanding the waiter "fill that man's hole with meat!!!"  Friday night went smoothly -- just a couple gentlemen pounding 10 adult beverages and stumbling back to the Westin.  Saturday began early afternoon at a driving range in Virginia that served buckets of beer.  5 of us attended. Combined, we hit zero golf balls, and drank a thirty beers.  By dinner, when the rest of the party showed up, we had a substantial, double-digit head start.  I don't think I ever kicked my line on the waiter.  Instead, I just thought about it in my head and giggled to myself like fucken idiot.  Fast forward to 2:00 am, the core four of the wedding party finished the evening with class, in style, pounding 20 ounce drafts at a Buffalo Wild Wings and hitting a vaporizer right at the bar.  No one was arrested, and the wedding is still on, so I guess it was a success.   

Afterwards, I needed nearly a full week to recover.  

Which lead to last weekend.  After sleeping to 10:30 Saturday morning, I got dressed and headed out the door to get coffee, drop off dry cleaning, and go for a run down by the Potomac river.  However, after taking care of the first two items on my list, I determined it was too "breezy" to run.  Yes, too breezy...  So, I went home and watched 12 hours of baseball instead.   Sunday was more of the same.  Hell, I even had tickets to the Nats-Braves game at 1:35, but couldn't motivate to head to the park, so I ended up watching the game from my couch.  

So, it's now Tuesday morning, 6:30 am, as I write this.  I'm feeling almost back to normal.  And not a minute too soon.  I've got a full month or so on tap.  I'm heading to AC this Friday . . . Next weekend is the aforementioned wedding . . . The following weekend I'm heading to Vegas for a quick trip to catch OAR play a three-night run at the Brooklyn Bowl . . . Which will be followed by a quick weekend trip to Denver the next weekend to catch the Mets series at Coors Field and visit my niece. 

YOLO, as the kids say . . .