29. June 2006 · Comments Off on Goin’ to California (and back) · Categories: Ain't That America?, Eat, Drink and be Merry, General, Pajama Game

Not being a regular visitor west of the Rockies (my last trek was to Pasadena on 9 Sep 01 – a whole other story), I always find California to be an experience worth commenting on. As I write this I realize that I may not be able to make the post until my return. I am staying at the Atrium Hotel in Irvine, which purports to have free high speed Internet in every room. Sounds good in theory, but I have spent 3 hrs. so far on the phone with the hotel’s Internet provider trying to get the “automatic” connection to work – with no luck so far. This is a pet peeve of mine because usually, in order to get connectivity away from home, I must go through a process of iterative setting changes that render my home and work connections inoperative on my return. And, of course, because the changes were iterative (and not recorded – my fault), reversing the process involves an equal dose of frustration. I see a Blackberry in my future.

Anyway, my mission is to evaluate a new technology in which my employer is considering an investment. The entrepreneurial community here always amazes me, along with what its interaction with “old industry” is like (when it goes well). Not in a bad way, but rather in the sense that we old liners are impressed with their vision, and they are impressed with our ability to point out the obvious legal/market/reality checks. We spent about 14 hrs. brainstorming at their Santa Ana office, located in one of many complexes with small office spaces arranged not unlike large self storage facilities – relatively cheap rent, undoubtedly high turnover. The mind is boggled by the amount of venture capital discussed within each “unit”, and the dreams and disappointments that accompany each change in tenancy. I long ago resigned myself to a life of servitude, albeit fairly compensated, but not these people. Dot com bust – what was that? A fourteen-hour day in my business usually equals mind numbing grind, but not when I do these meetings. Not a stupid person in the room, with the possible exception of yours truly, and get this – no bringing in Subway sandwiches! Lunch at the Cheesecake Factory and a (very) late dinner at some great seafood joint – I think McCormick Schmidt (although I could have done without the karaoke).

I arrived yesterday afternoon and decided to chill at the Atrium. It’s a pretty cool hotel that I can heartily recommend (as long as Internet connectivity is not a priority) at $139/night. It has been around for a while and the blush is somewhat off the rose, but it seems to capture the essence of this part of California. At only three stories, it is a rambling place that surrounds a rather nice courtyard with palm trees aplenty and a nice pool. I love the lizards too. Navigating the complex can be a challenge, but once getting the feel for the place it seemed that the meandering is one of its charms. After spending the three hours trying to achieve connectivity, I wandered to the bar and grill for a double scotch and a steak sandwich – both of which, by the way, were excellent. I struck up a conversation with the barkeep and some locals, who told me that it was unseasonably hot and humid – at 83 deg. and not-so-bad humidity! Having lived in west central Illinois for so many years, where 95 – 100 deg. and 90% humidity is not unusual, I was a little (lot) surprised. After all, L.A. always seemed like a hellhole to me -–much like Phoenix. It turns out that their proximity to the ocean results in a normal high of around 80 deg., but with little humidity. One of my new friends, an Irvine native, BEGGED me to not tell anyone about the true state of the climate – he says there are too many transplants as it is. Sorry Carl – this is newsworthy and the American public has the right to know. You should appreciate this based on your vocal support of the NY (and LA) Times of their exposure of the insidious terrorist wiretapping and financial record tracking. Anyway, I expect Carl will still greet me as an old friend the next time because I doubt that he is a regular reader of this august blog.

I was in Washington DC three weeks ago, and did write a piece called “Foggy Bottom” that I intended to post, but it seemed too cynical upon further reflection. The memorials and monuments were great, but the landscaping sucked and the people were either tourists or overflow from K street lobbyists. At least the SoCal people freely admit that its about the money. Funny though, once they get it a lot of them decide that money (but not theirs) is the root of all evil

Anyway, later that night I was sitting in my room’s balcony watching the flight attendants arriving, and casually eavesdropping on their conversations as they came through the parking lot. The content was not memorable, but the tone, and the manner in which they made their way to the check-in area, reminded be so very much of TDY’sThe and overnight trips this young airman took so many years ago, when the world was not a place to be wary of, but rather a kingdom to be conquered. It is good, I think, to sense a glimpse of that, from however far ago, while in a tropical climate.

Trouble brewed on the home front with both Red Haired Girl and Real Wife when I mentioned that I was about 10 – 20 minutes from Disneyland (God as my witness – I did not know this when I planned the trip). I am searching for a t-shirt with the legend “My Dad Went To Disneyland And All I Got Was This Crappy T-Shirt” Links would be appreciated.

UPDATE – I am now home, and have at least reintroduced the IBM X41 to the home wlan. I feel younger, helped a bit perhaps by being in the aisle seat as a self-appointed guardian of two young ladies aged 11 and 9, travelling alone by plane for the first time to visit their grandparents. With their necklace-displayed credentials and travel papers, and the question “Mister, have you done this before?”, I knew it would be a good plane ride, and it was. The noise and sensation of landing gear and flap motion etc. gave me an opportunity to explain engineering principals (including the Bernoulli principal); topics long since banished from our normal family discourse for reasons unknown to me (Real Wife and Red Haired Girl don’t want to hear about entropy anymore either – go figure) I even got free snacks and headphones from the flight attendant (now $4 and $2 respectively on AA). That whole experience was a not-so-small serendipitous gift that, although reminding me of my grandfatherly age, also reminded me of how the world looks to the young.

As I write this, I am back in Illinois; on the patio with a cold beer and Springsteen on the box. Grilled cheese sandwich for supper. Life is good. I don’t see myself ever living anywhere with palm trees, but visits to such places, and often the transit to and from thereof, makes life worthwhile.

With regard to Disneyland, Red Haired Girl on the way home from the airport lamented that she once again missed a ride on a “real” rollercoaster, to which I argued I didn’t like the odds of 1-2 fatalities per year on said rollercoasters. Got home – another twelve year old killed today at Disneyworld. Am I missing something here?

Lastly, 13 June marked fourteen years of wedded bliss with Real Wife. For our anniversary, I traded her Barbie Jeep on a new Grand Cherokee – red – with a Hemi. Of course, the main selling points were back up sensors, extended warranty, etc. Did I mention that it has a Hemi?

By the way, for any computer whizzes out there, during my California Internet hell, I was able to connect, but if it took longer than a few short seconds to bring up a web site, everything timed out and the connection went dead – any ideas on why?


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