Tuesday, October 26, 2004

"Don't tell me the lights are shining..."

"...Anyplace but there."

Business Trip Round-up: A Cautionary Hypertext Tale

After a supremely stressful day at work on Wednesday, we left for the airport. We got there early enough to watch the Astros tie up Game 6 4-4 in the ninth (they lost while we were airborne). We sat in a mini-Chili's, in the loser terminal of the airport. IAH has a terminal that can only be reached by tram. As soon as we got there, I dubbed it, "the loser terminal." So we sat in the loser terminal and watched some baseball. I had Southwestern Eggrolls. He had a bacon cheeseburger. It was dinner.

Flight was smooth. Except that it was on a Continental "ExpressJet," which, if you aren't aware, is roughly the size of an Altoids tin. So small that there are three seats per row, one on the left of the aisle and two on the right. So small that only the seats on the right get an overhead bin. So small that the only lavatory was in the back of the aircraft.

So small that we had to walk out onto the tarmac, braving winds and 300 decibel noise, and walk up some stairs to board the aircraft. I half-expected the pilot to ask everyone's weight so he could balance out the plane.

We landed after a cramped two-hour flight. Baggage claim. My first taxi ride. That's right, until last Wednesday, I'd never ridden in a taxi. My thoughts--eh.

Hotel accomodations: The lovely Adam's Mark Hotel, the poshest hotel in my limited hotel experience. Nice place. Fancy fancy. The doorman carried our two bags on a pushcart for thirty feet, then made a face when I only gave him a couple of bucks. So sorry, Mr. Doorman, I know how much those TEN YARDS took their toll. Geez. People. I didn't let anyone carry my bags anywhere after that.

Nice room. 17th floor--the "business class" floor, you could say. Continental breakfast on that floor every morning. "Horse-doovers" and desserts at night. Poshy poshy.

The conference: Somewhat informative. Some parts were slow--as one can expect from 3-hour seminars on punctuation. But the lunches weren't too terrible. And there were a few cute girls. Not a total loss.

St. Louis dining: Not bad, but nothing as good as can be found here in my hometown. We ate at an over-priced faux-sporty steakhouse owned by a former baseball star. No good. We had some local Italian. Better. We grabbed some burgers across the street from the hotel--tasty. The only place I ate twice was a restaurant/sports bar two blocks down. That was where we watched the crucial (and for some, painful) NLCS Game 7. More on that momentarily.

St. Louis attractions: Obviously the Arch. 630 feet tall, made of steel and concrete. You can ride up to the very top in a claustrophobic, egg-shaped tram that's five feet tall and about three feet across on the inside. The doors to get in the damned thing were only about four feet tall. And yet there were five metal seats in each egg. Yeah, right. Five people. But the view from the top of the Arch is quite impressive. Underneath the Arch, built underground, are two gift shops, a few theaters showing the "making of the Arch" film, and a "Westward Expansion" museum. Good times. I'll post pictures sometime. As a national landmark, I'd give the Gateway Arch a B+. Not super-flashy, but definitely interesting and worthwhile.

Other attractions: There's an old "historic" courthouse that was converted into a Jeffersonian museum of the expansion through and "taming" of Missouri. Specifically, the Mississippi River and the St. Louis area. (Yes, I sang "Big River" at every possible opportunity.) The rotunda was pretty cool, though. I conducted my own museum "tour" for my co-worker and I, making up stories to go along with each painting and sculpture, spoken in my best "gold-rush prospecter/trailhand/grizzled ranch-cook" voice. He was amused.

There was also an enormous riverboat casino discovered at one point on the trip. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

The Agony of Defeat, the Thrill of Local Girls: My co-worker and I went to Caleco's to watch that tragic Game 7. Standing room only, a sea of red shirts and Cardinals jerseys. We sat down at 5 p.m. to secure a table for the game at 7. We had barbecued chicken pizza for dinner--or, rather, I had. He had something else. Eight somethings else. The game went as it did. The mildly confrontational Cardinal fans became more relaxed and hospitable as their team steamrolled to victory. The only bright spot of the evening was when the most beautiful girl in St. Louis came over to rub the victory in our faces. Her name was Gretchen. Gretchen with long blonde hair down her back, wearing a Cardinals jersey and jeans, and a ball cap. Hot Gretchen. She put an arm around my co-worker and talked to us, and kept bumping into me as she stood. (She'd been having a liquid dinner as well, it seems.) But she was absolutly gorgeous, and she had come over to give us a good-natured teasing. (I'm mentally blocking out the fact that she talked to the co-worker the whole time she was at our table, and all but totally ignored me. Allow me my delusions, if you please.) As the co-worker and I walked back to the hotel, Cardinals fans were hanging out of car windows, driving up and down the road, screaming and honking. My co-worker turns to the crowd and utters a Shakespearan cry of "Feel my pain, you bastards!" He was passed out in his room ten minutes later.

Celebrity Sightings: As we sat sipping Frappachino in downtown STL, a man came in that my co-worker was convinced was Elliot. You know, that Elliot. I'm still not convinced, but hey, you never know.

The Best Part of Staying in a Hotel: Is not having to go to Blockbuster. Garden State? Check. Chronicles of Riddick? Check. Anchorman? Check. Manchurian Candidate? Check. If we'd been there one more day, I could have added Before Sunset to that list. Good times.

Flight back on Sunday morning. Freaking express jet. Taxi. Family dinner. Home. Bed.

Lessons learned from this experience:
  • If you have to get up for a seminar, don't stay up until 2 watching Adult Swim and Sportscenter.
  • Pork tenderloin tastes like it's barely been heated to room temperature.
  • I can even suck at punctuation homework.
  • Don't get tipsy (or let your friends/coworkers get tipsy) at a sports bar, in an opposing team's city during the playoffs. If you do, hope that your team loses, so the patrons will be in a good mood, and will decide not to kill you.
  • If you win more than $40 in slots, DO NOT KEEP PLAYING. Cash out and walk away, so you won't hate yourself for losing it all later.
  • Gambling is bad.
  • Gretchen was freaking hot. Okay, not a lesson learned, but an important plot point.
So yes. Good trip. Glad to be home though.

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