Friday, May 23, 2008

I'm back from Baltimore and an extended weekend of walky talking and general trade showmanship. I wore my suit with aplomb. I walked the convention center floor with my chin up, shoulders back and my communications were crisp and affable. For a moment, I affected all the mannerisms of a Fully Grown Human.

Baltimore itself seemed tangled and confused. Downtown's streets teemed with homeless people and the buildings—even the historical ones—were cold, dark and empty. I confess I was busy enough that I didn't see enough of it.

The outskirts of downtown showed promise. Little Italy was small and charming, rows of stubby brick buildings shoulder to shoulder right up to the sidewalk, a man sitting on an old wooden bench playing a mandolin at dusk, festival lights crisscrossing the street above.

On Monday I walked to the Inner Harbor, a nightmare of tourist traps—like the beautiful old power plant building updated with ugly neon signs for Hard Rock Café, Potbellys, ESPNZone. The National Aquarium was a bright spot along an otherwise depressing route.

That evening my flight was delayed for five hours as mechanical problems were addressed. I landed at O'Hare at 11 p.m., rushed through the terminal and out into the night air, through the cab lanes. Arrivals.

It felt so good to be home.

Tonight, Lauren and I drive back down to Louisville, Ky. On Sunday, we head back north to Indianapolis for the Indy 500. Later that evening, I'll walk into the apartment and enter a deep coma.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I'm heading to Baltimore on Thursday for a trade show my company is hosting. The whole thing is very large and organized and professional, so I had to buy a suit to wear so that people don't mistake me for a panhandler. The suit is nice and fits me well. Now people will mistake me for a CEO. And I will fire them on the spot.

Scuttlebutt around the office is that we'll be eating crab cakes and other regional foods—Cool Ranch Doritos, perhaps. Whatever it is they eat out there. I have read a couple paragraphs about the East Coast on Wikipedia. And I have watched a weekly documentary on HBO about life in Baltimore. I feel I have picked up the dialect and customs and cannot wait to show off my knowledge of the area to some of the natives. Maybe they'll think I'm a genuine Baltimoron!

My company's trade show is taking place the same weekend as the famous Preakness Stakes. After the race, at least one lucky horse will be ceremoniously euthanized for the failings of its species. This public sacrifice will remind the Gods that horse racing is Big Business.

You can bet on it.

The race, that is. They have all sorts of interesting categories–win, place, show, trifecta, double down—on which you can make bets. You can place a small, risky wager and, if you win, you'll be a Pretty Lucky Human. After all, you're betting on an animal race, and most animals are dangerous and unpredictable.

Friday, May 09, 2008

I haven't been to many bars in the Loop, and I guess I kind of assumed all the places down there would require a tuxedo and ivory cufflinks. So I was pleasantly surprised last night by the casual, beer-swilling atmosphere at Monk's Pub.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Last night I got on the bus to head home after a long, hard day at work. I held my card to the sensor but didn't hear the Triple Beep of Acceptance. I tried again. Nothing. Meanwhile, other bus riders lined up behind me, waiting with waning patience for me to get my fares in order. I tried again. Nothing.

Alas, I was trying to get on the bus using my Bank of America card.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

I like being recognized when I can walk into an establishment I frequent. And I take it harder than I should when I'm not recognized despite my frequent customer status and indefatigable empathy with the plight of the working (wo)man, which empathy expresses itself in the form of generous tips. Lauren and I joke with each other that we're invisible, because we'll often go to restaurants or bars and sit for several excruciating minutes waiting for someone to serve us. Later we'll sit for several additional excruciating minutes waiting for a check.

It doesn't end there. Despite the fact that we stop at our local pub at least once a week—and have been doing so for several months—I still get carded by the same waitresses over and over again.

But a couple weeks ago everything changed. I walked into Starbucks and the lady behind the counter knew my order. I'd only been coming in for about a month. I fully expected to remain invisible for at least another few years. And this morning, she slid my coffee across the counter, smiled, and said "Today is free grande Wednesday."

I'm here. I'm really here.

Monday, May 05, 2008

It surprises me that most printing companies seem to spend little time and effort on the composition and design of their marketing materials. This is from a pitch I received today:

"As with all modern marketing techniques, mailings too have evolved. The standard nation wide saturation method of sending mail is becoming obsolete, and taking its place is targeted marketing; Mail designed to target the right clientele, and mailed to a very specific list of candidates in order to retrieve the best return on investment."


Friday, May 02, 2008

How do cemeteries make money after they run out of space?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Everything is happening all at once—the miracle of convergence or, as I like the call it, Cinco de Mayo (roughly translated: "the Ides of March"). Lauren's sister, Katherine, had a baby, which meant we had to drive to Louisville, Kentucky, to see the baby and support Katherine's motherhood and her husband Stephen's fatherhood and the baby's (Will's) newborn babyness.

Babies are the most interesting of all humans. This despite the fact that they make horrible conversationalists. Babies are small and their heads are more oblong than adult heads—their foreheads stretching back like bike ramps. Their eyes are glassy and sedate. The babies themselves seem confused, their glassy, sedated eyes fixed dumbly on the ceiling's florescent light casings.

Our maternal and paternal instincts kick in and we tell them that they'd better not fuck up their lives with drugs and loud music. We tell them this in a high-pitched voice that we didn't know we had. Babies bring out the highest pitch in us. Louder than a sorority reunion at a small regional airport.

As the weekend came to a close, Lauren could not tear herself away from the baby and its parents. I drove back to Chicago alone, listening to a baseball game on the radio most of the way. Lauren flew into Midway the following night. I picked her up at the airport, where her plane's chosen jetway malfunctioned and caused a slight delay.

We ironed it all out.