Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thoughts and Ramblings.....

I had to go to my neighborhood Von's grocery store last night to pick up a few veggies for dinner and got a nice surprise at the cash register. Now, let me just preface this by saying that our Von's sucks. It's small, has a terrible selection of fresh food and poor quality when it is there and frankly, it caters to a market segment that I'm not a part of. Ok, let's get real here. Some of you aren't going to like what I say, but, hey, it's true. Grocery stores, and other retailers use market research (like your Ralph's/Vons/Albertsons "savings" card) to gather buying habits and other data on their clientel and focus the stores' content on that information. Our Vons caters to black people, pure and simple. It's the only grocery store I go to that has grits, collared greens during Thanksgiving, gumbo, etc etc. Am I racially profiling and pissing you off? Well tough shit, it's the truth.

Wait a second, where was I going with this? Oh, right --- so at the cash register there was a stack of Melissa Etheridge's new release "Awakenings" with a big sign over the POS machine for donating to breast cancer. I thought, hmmm, this is novel, a lesbian, white woman's CD in a predominately black supermarket with top billing. How life continues to amaze the way, I donated.

Next random thought, 6:00 am. I usually get up at 6 and go to the gym or for a walk. What happened? It's still dark when I go out there! Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that the earth rotates and moves in it's orbit around the sun and fall is coming so the days are shorter, but still. It sucks. It feels like I should be in bed. Getting motivated is quite difficult when you get up and it's dark. When is daylight savings time anyways? Well this year, it's the first Sunday in November instead of somewhere in October. I think it's 2 weeks later.

Well, there are more random thoughts, but I'll get to those later.......

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Simpler Times.....

As I sit in the deep, dank ne'er regions of the Grand Del Mar computer room designing and programming their entire network, I think of how much fun this is. I know that sounds silly. I have no cell phone service, the toilets have no paper products, there are construction workers everywhere and a big smile on my face. Here, I can fix something, program something and receive relatively instant gratification that I've done a good job.

My job now is Customer Relations Manager. What does that mean really? The official explanation is that I provide a liaison between the customer and sales and the customer and our technical services people. You may even call me a customer advocate. I'm required to be technical in nature, salesy in nature but most of all, have excellent customer facing skills. I think I fit that bill. The job in theory is supposed to strengthen the customer relationship between the "company" and the customer. This should head off situations where all of a sudden the customer buys $ 1,000,000 worth of widgets from your competitor and tells you to hit the road because x, y and z sucks about your company, but you had no idea the customer was having that experience. I think it's a vital position and my company focuses it on higher $ value customers, as it should be.

So for these next 2 days, I have no customer interaction, I have only to talk to inanimate objects via my computer and make them do my bidding. A nice change for sure. I'm sure Monday I'll be happy to be doing my real job :-)

Addendum: well as I left the site at 9:00pm I'm wondering if I miss it all that much, my back aches from sitting hunched over a cardboard box as a table from my seat, another cardboard box.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Road Trip Day 8 - Friday - The Road Less Travelled

Dena and I believe in taking roads less travelled, off the beaten track and away from the everyday traveller. You cannot see the country from the Interstate. We left Santa Fe for the drive home at 6am MST, and began our long and scenic day. We stopped in Gallup, NM for breakfast at a Earl's Family Restaurant on Route 66. Believe it or not, I had been there before. The place is frequented by mostly Navajo Indians and is surrounded by Navajo artists hocking their wares. After a dirt cheap, filling breakfast we hit the road again making great time for Flagstaff, AZ. We jumped off Interstate 40 at Flagstaff and opted for the southerly State Route 89A towards the incredible Red Rock area near Sedona.

We stopped in Sedona for a quick pee and couldn't really recognize the town. We had been to Sedona ~ 14 years ago and we were doubting ourselves that it was the same place. The highway was surrounded by what basically was a .25 mile long mini-mall on both sides. Crazy touristy for sure, the shops 2 stories high and blocking the fantastic vistas and views that made Sedona famous in the first place. I walked into a shop and asked when this whole complex of shops appeared. The shopkeeper told me it was about 10 years ago and where we were standing used to be highway, just highway. That's what we remembered, highway and not this whole commercialized, touristy shopping area. We were appalled and glad we had come 14 years ago when it was more real. I suppose that's why we're going to Antarctica, the road (or ocean) less travelled.

From Sedona we continued south thru the back country of Arizona to a small little town of Jerome, pop. 400 souls. This is an old 1880's copper mining ghost town turned eclectic artists community now. We had a fantastic lunch at the Flat Iron Cafe. A small cafe with only 3 tables right at the point of a hairpin turn, run by 2 gay guys, transplants from Seattle. The town is very hilly and the little streets wind up the hill in sharp switchbacks. Stairs serve as pedestrian walkways and you can get quite a workout walking around. We bummed around, looked in galleries and shops and Dena reminisced about her visit here when she was a teenager. This really was the reason we stopped as Dena and her family had been here before. She admitted that they didn't stay long as someone was in a bad mood. I wonder who that was?

From there we continued our South Westerly drive over Mingus Mountain, then into Prescott Valley, then up into another mountain range, then down into another valley, and on and on that went for hours, up and down, up and down. I was getting a little tired of all this hanging on for dear life while we went careening around hairpin corners and hung off the side of cliffs but Dena had fun. She drove all day as she loves this type of mountain driving. I would have pulled over long ago for a glass of wine as I get too tired and stressed driving these kinds of roads.

After our over hill and dale trek we hit Highway 71 that marches through some of the most desolate land I've ever seen. Beautiful saguaro cacti all over though, but desolate. Finally we hit Interstate 10 and headed for Palm Springs, CA. We overnighted at our friends Al and Michael's having a nice swim and a couple glasses of wine. What a day.....

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Road Trip - Day 7 - Thursday

Today we spent a morning of leisure bumming around shops and waiting for our massages.....
After that tough morning we were off to the Ten Thousand Waves for an afternoon of hot pools, sauna's and a massage. We were there for about 4 hours. We felt rejuventated after all that, I had thought we'd feel really tired. Good thing, as it was time for the Zozobra festival.

We met at the B&B we started at, the Turquoise Bear, as they had invited us to park there and walk to the Zozobra festival with them. What a great bunch of people they are. We started our trek to the festival park about 1.5 miles away with about 15 people. They showed us where to buy tickets, waited for us, and guided us up near the front of the 20,000 people waiting to see Old Man Gloom get burned. What an experience this was. You see, Zozobra or Old Man Gloom is an 87 year old festival in Santa Fe. To the people of Santa Fe, Old Man Gloom represents the hardships and difficulties of the past year. They burn him in effigy to clear away the gloom and bring in a new, better year. The burning is a kind of ritual, or symbolic act. To tell you the truth my readers, I had tears in my eyes as the crowd chanted "BURN HIM" and everyone cast their anxieties, hardships and problems up into the huge figure. You see, I wanted these anxieties about work to be gone and the symbolic new year to be a good one.

We had a great time and we sorry to see our new friends leave.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Road Trip - Day 6 - Wednesday

Today we decided to drive up to Taos for the day. With sadness we checked out of the Turquoise Bear Inn. We had a wonderful time there, met many people and bonded with our innkeeper Steven. He was sad to see us leave and perhaps we'll see him Thursday night at the infamous Zozobra festival. We may be going with all the staff from the Turquoise Bear.

On the drive up our first stop was Santuario de Chimayo, one of the most famous churches in all of New Mexico. The story goes that over 200 years ago a man named Bernado Albeyta was leading a Holy week celebration when he saw a mysterious light coming from the ground. He began to dig at the source of the light and soon uncovered a crucifix. The crucifix was taken to the church of Santa Cruz, but miraculously continued to return, on its own, to its original location. The santuario was constructed around the cross so that it could remain where it belonged. It is said that people make a pilgrimage from all over to rub the dirt from that hole over their ailments and that it cures them. I rubbed dirt on my shoulder. It seemed to feel better, I forgot to rub it on my back as that was quite sore as well.

Then we drove up to Taos, shopped a little and visited the bridge over the Rio Grande Gorge. That's spectacular, its about a 600' hole in the middle of endless prairies. The gorge cuts across the entire valley floor, which is quite extensive. All I could think of was the wagon trains coming across for the first time and riding on this nice flat ground then they run into the gorge and the only word out of their mouth would be "Fuck!". Because there really is no way around it.
From there it was the Taos Pueblo. That truly was the highlight of the day. We got a guided tour and met several artists, one being Tom Ready to Hunt. We purchased a few pieces of jewellery from him and enjoyed our stay. No running water, electricity or modern conveniences allowed within the pueblo walls. If you are Taos Indian you always have a home here anytime you want, a mud wall adobe home. About 20-30 families living there fulltime with the population rising significantly during holidays.
Dinner was at a wonderful place called Gabriel's near our new digs, the Triangle Inn. We are about 10 miles outside of town, it's quiet. Gabriel's had the best food we've had since we've been here. For $ 40 we had margaritas, fresh made at your table guacamole (Fantastic!), sopapillas (best I've ever had) and more food than we could eat. Dena had these chile rellenos that were pure perfection.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Road Trip - Day 5 - Tuesday

Tuesday started off up early for the short 30 minute drive to the Tent Rocks NM. We spent a truly spectacular day hiking in the Tent Rocks National Monument. I've not been to a slot canyon, unless of course if you count Petra, which in my opinion is the slot canyon to end all -- perhaps the 8th wonder of the world. But I digress. How about we just say this was my first American slot canyon. The scenery was breathtaking and around every corner was another adventure.

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, is located 40 miles southwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico (near Cochiti), is a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) managed site that was established as a U.S. National Monument by President Bill Clinton in January 2001 shortly before leaving office. Thanks Bill.

After a snack we had to have a power nap after all that scenery and hiking. We then strolled to the plaza and shopped a little. But our heart wasn't in it. Dinner was at a restaurant called The Compound/ where we had a fantastic margarita called a Prickly Pear Margarita. We had a great dinner and spent the evening listening to the thunder and rain while watching A Fish Called Wanda. Great background soundtrack to a classic movie.

In regards to the Direct Services re-organization I heard yesterday that my job is safe and still the same but different.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Road Trip - Day 4 - Labor Day

Today was a low key day although a good one. We've met many people at the B&B's we've stayed at; one being a couple from Boston. They were going to some large as life art exhibit in southern New Mexico called the Lightning field. Apparently its a 24 hour experience. It looks boring to me and frankly, I'm not sure I'd want to be standing in monsoon season in a huge field of 200 lightning rods.......but that's just me.

The day was full of gallery hopping and the Georgia O'Keefe Museum. We had a great time, had a little nap in the afternoon and then went to see Death at a Funeral. Not as funny a movie as the trailers led you to believe, but entertaining.

My nerves jangle with anticipation of the announcement tomorrow of our company's division merger. I find out what my new position is, assuming there is one, and what changes in the organization will take place. Perhaps the anxiety dreams will stop after tonight.......

Monday, September 03, 2007

Road Trip - Day 3 Sunday

We left Albuquerque (thank god as its hard to spell in a blog) after a wonderful breakfast among the humming birds at the Bottger Mansion. We had an easy drive up to Santa Fe, NM and of course, opted for the road less travelled. We took SR 14 which is called the Turquoise Trail . We stopped at a small little remnant of a mining town called Golden, then on to the big attraction, Madrid. They say that if you turned New Mexico upside down and shook it all the loose screws, nuts and dolts would fall out and land in Madrid (apparently pronounced "mah-drid").

Madrid is a great artist's community with wonderful shops and galleries. Apparently the area around Cerrillos is only able to be mined by 5 different people/claims. Cerrillos turquoise is quite a bit different from other turquoise found throughout the SouthWest. These miners can no longer use heavy equipment but must mine by hand, pick axe, shovel type equipment only. I don't really care for turquoise normally but actually found a gorgeous pendant that I had to have. Then as we walked around I found the artist in another shop. She mines it herself with one of the 5 claims which she inherited from her father Whalen. He taught her the mining techniques, jewellry making and the art of inlay. We enjoyed talking with her.

Our easy 60 mile side trip landed us in Santa Fe in time to check into our new digs, the Inn of the Turquoise Bear. A gorgeous B&B made in the old adobe tradition with 6" thick walls and ultra quiet rooms. We had a lovely wine and cheese reception, met people from all over the US and then went out to Los Mayos for a traditional New Mexician dinner complete with sangria. YUMMM!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Road Trip - Day 2 - Saturday

We awoke in Kingman, AZ to another beautiful day and hopped in the car. We started out immediately with a detour opting for the longer famous Route 66 section between Kingman and Flagstaff. We weren't disappointed as the scenery was spectacular and the drive easy. We stopped for breakfast in Seligman at a German restaurant, rumored to be fantastic. There we sat among all bikers and hunters eating our wonderful pancakes. Needless to say we were the only people not wearing black or camouflage.

We cruised through Flagstaff and decided to stop at the famous Meteor Crater . You can read all about it via the link however, it was huge, only 6 miles off I40 and well worth the stop. They trained the Apollo astronauts there as it was so moonlike. You drive up to it and you can see the impact (literally hehe) it had on the landscape. Miles upon miles upon miles of flat high desert and then the ground rises up to this. Amazing.

Next we cruised through Winslow, AZ and played the Eagles song, "Take it easy" in honor of that one horse town. We again veered off the main interstate, opting for the road less travelled and headed up SR 191 for the Hubbell Trading Post. This is the last still operating trading post in the United States and lies on Navajo land. The Navajo exhibit their rugs, jewellery and still trade for foodstuffs here. Dena purchased a beautiful ring whose turquoise reminded me of 2 flowers coming out of a vase. I decided her Indian name was going to be "two flowers".

From there we blew thru the Navajo reservation coming into Gallup and patted ourselves on the back as our timing was going to be perfect. We were going to arrive in Albuquerque around 7:30 - 8:00p in time to check in and then go to a late dinner. Apparently old town ABQ rolls up at 9:00. This was not to be as we hit a tremendous thunder and lightning storm, construction and bad traffic. We rolled into Albuquerque at 9:00p hardly able to see the street signs and struggled to find our B&B the Bottger Mansion. We found it and the rain was just raging. The inn was closed and I ran up to the door found our letter with how to get in, meanwhile shivering in the rain, soaked to the bone and cringing from the thunder and lightning bolts. We made it in the house both soaked and pissed off. All the restaurants were closed and we ended up going to bed with a protein bar. A bad end to an awesome day.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Road Trip Blog -- Day 1

What an adventure we've had thus far. We left Los Angeles Friday afternoon at around 1:30 and our timing was perfect. Even though it was a long weekend we seemed to skim right along. Starting over the Cajon pass on our way into the high desert on I15 we started to see some awesome lightning strikes, while awed by their beauty we thought nothing of it until we ran into probably one of the biggest thunderstorms I've ever driven through. We were driving uphill and there was probably 1" to 3" of water on the road instantly. Dena kept watch to the sides of the road as we were passing the "Wash Road Exit", an omen to be sure while I kept my eyes glued to what I could see of the road. We weathered that and several other rain squalls and passed thru Barstow in record time.

We stopped in the little shithole of a town near the Arizona border called Needles at 6:30p and it was a balmy 113 degrees. Can you imagine what the damn temperature was in the heat of the afternoon? We gassed up and were on our way. We found out later from friends that Needles is the highest priced gas in the nation. Thank you very much. As we drove across the Colorado River into Arizona we started to see lightning strikes that made the ones over Cajon pass pale in comparison. That constant lightning show went on for an hour making us cry out over in over in awe and surprise. We drove into Kingman, AZ and visited some old work friends of mine. They showed us a good time, made Margaritas with a killer mix that involves 1/2 bottle of beer and shared there star filled backyard with us.

For Saturday September 1st, who knows what adventures we'll have. Perhaps we'll touch on the famous Route 66.