October 05, 2005

Back In Town

Yesterday was a tiring one, what with a six hour flight from Boston to San Francisco aboard a 757. I don't know where that extra hour's flying time came from, I haven't seen any speed limit signs sticking out of passing clouds and using high fuel prices as an excuse won't cut it because the slower you go, the more fuel efficiency you burn off.

I usually fly United, but this time I flew American, and I think I'll stick with them in future travel. Six hours is a long time to be cooped up in an airplane any way you look at it. I was in 1st Class, and the purser and a flight attendant(a second one helping out during the meal service) made the long flight go quickly. The food{I had a steak with a pepper glaze and spinach mashed potatoes} was better than any previous cooked meals I've ever had on an airplane, they even cooked the steak to order, in my case light-medium rare. They were very forthcoming with wine, liquor, desserts and were constantly handing out things to eat.

Hats off to the TSA people at Logan!

Unlike their colleagues at O'Hare, Reagan National, Dulles and Orlando, these folks were real pros, both in their attitude and in the performance of their duties. Conversations with some of them revealed both healthy senses of humor mixed with total professionalism and more general intelligence than their coworkers at other airports.

And something else, which could only serve to support my complete admiration for the security staff at Logan -- This is funny!

Some time before I left on my trip in early September, someone gave me a mini Victorinox{Swiss Army Knife}as a token gift or whatever, and I dropped it into my notebook's carrying case and forgot about it. Naturally, that's my one piece of carry-on luggage when I travel, and that Victorinox knife I'd forgotten existed passed through security at four airports, in my carry-on luggage, only to be discovered, finally, by the Transportation Security people at Logan!

There was no problem, we'd been having dialogue and understood we were on the same side, so I had no objection to their keeping it per their SOP. Hell, I didn't even remember owning it, anyway.

I suppose that since Logan was the airport at which 9/11 hijackers boarded two of the four aircraft involved, there's a certain amount of understandable "never again" attitude. One of the things that struck me as different in the TSA personnel at Logan was their easy way with people passing through their checkpoint. It flowed, and for me, well... I travel differently than many people in some ways that tend to earn me extra scrutiny... I won't say why, because that would only give terrorists a useful look at another thing that might get one of them caught should one happen to read this blog. At any rate, even though such things are an inconvenience, the TSA people at Logan made it a smooth procedure(No, I don't get strip searched or the rubber glove, get your mind the frick away from there!).
Another thing that amazed me at Logan was that they didn't waste their time searching my suitcase. The lock is one of those that are made in a series to which the TSA has master keys. If you don't have one of those, they'll cut your lock if they decide they need to get in and look. My suitcase is an Atlantis, and they include a TSA lock.
The contents of my suitcase at any given time compose a quagmire, and at the tail end of my month-long trip, coming home, we're talking major chaos. At most other airports that my bag's been checked, I afterward found the obligatory notice from the TSA inside that they'd searched it. At Logan they didn't, probably because their government security crew knows what they're looking at when they look at an X-ray of a piece of luggage.

I didn't have a whole lot of time for reading anything on line -- as soon as I got home, I went back out to buy coffee and other basic necessities, since then most of my time has been spent going through a month's worth of mail of the USPS, UPS and FedEx variety, and we're talking a lot.

So this morning, before hitting the rack as I will soon, I've been exploring a few of my favorite blogs.

In the Eminent Domain Strikes Again Department, Ogre's Politics And Views details an ongoing example of the deterioration, due to corruption and government policy supported by the Supreme Court, of our American right to own property in our country.

Sister Toldjah! links us to Michael Yon in another example of the human compassion within our military forces that you won't read about in the liberal Mainstream Media.

Debbie Schlussel talks about a complete waste of skin named Josh Rushing.

Me? I'm about ready for some serious slumber, so I'm saying goodnight for now, and "Ah'll be bock!"

Posted by Seth at 02:17 AM |

September 17, 2005

New York

Today was kind of a longish day for me, I've been awakening early for some unearthly reason, and getting my day started with the usual long dose of news website and blog reading, answering emails that came in at hours when even I'm asleep and those that arrived early.

I called the concierge in my DC hotel and asked her to get me shuttle flight reservations to New York and hotel reservations as well -- hotels offer all sorts of useful services and when you're travelling a lot, using them makes life much easier. She talked me into taking the Amtrack Acela(a high speed train shuttle), pointing out that it would mean not having to show up an hour early at the airport and do the security routine, giving me more personal time to have a few brews with some friends before grabbing a cab for the short ride to Union Station.

Skipping the airport security routine was a winning idea: I'm not what you'd call a neat, orderly packer and when my checked luggage goes through the X-ray machine, the quagmire within nearly always attracts the beady eyes of the idiotic, boneheaded, otherwise unemployable buffoons who seemingly rejoice in making sure they wrinkle up every damn pressed or neatly folded article of clothing in your suitcase that the TSA hires to open your bags and search them when they observe said quagmires.

As an experiment, a friend of mine recently put these people to a test at one airport. Cigarette lighters, for some inexplicable reason or other, are now forbidden aboard commercial airplanes. I suppose they're afraid Mohammed and Ibrahim are going to leap up from their seats midflight yelling, "Nobody move! We hev Zeepo! Alahu Akbar!"

Anyway, my friend stashed four cheap disposable lighters in his carry-on bag, and after a lengthy search{each time a lighter was found, they searched harder} they managed to find three of them, then they let him go through.

The only difference between the pre and post 9/11 passenger screening agents is that the post ones have "guard card" type training, the kind of thing that can be referred to as an upgrade on paper for liability purposes, more official looking uniforms, federal employee status and a slightly higher pay check. Granted, the upgraded procedures make it more difficult for a terrorist to smuggle the tools of his trade aboard a plane, but it also brings more business to hotel valets when a hapless passenger needs to have his clothes pressed thanks to those heavy handed....

Anyway, this post isn't supposed to be about those inept excuses for security personnel, it's supposed to be about my coming to New York. Though I will say one thing, and that is that there seem to be an awful lot of young Islamic males handling security at our airports, and you fellas and fella-ettes at the ACLU take that any way you want, there's no political correctness at this blog.

So I got to New York at 7:00 P.M., checked into my hotel an hour later(Saturday evening traffic here is like Saturday evening traffic noplace else, it's like one solid vehicle with a lot of moving parts that don't seem to move all that much) and went out to explore. I grew up here and have dwelt here for much of my adult life, but I haven't lived here for over 6 years and a lot has changed. My hotel's in midtown Manhattan on the east side, a nice area, but I headed downtown to Washington Square in the West Village and then wandered over to Bleeker Street in search of a bar where I might relax and enjoy a couple of drinks.

Fuggedadboudit, every watering hole for blocks was packed to the point of people spilling out the doors, and the sidewalks were as crowded as Times Square on New Years Eve. Like I said, it had been a long day and it was more than a little muggy, so I wasn't really into the human density thing, so I decided to return to my hotel.

Tomorrow I plan to go to Ground Zero for the first time, last time I was there we still had those two magnificent towers there and I was taking the E Train out of the subway station underneath. Then there are friends I want to contact whom I haven't seen for several years.

But don't for a minute take the impression that I am in any way feeling even the most remote disparagement where New York is concerned, I was just kinda worn out from the day's travel, the humidity and so forth and was in a listless mood.

New York is the greatest city on earth. There is an invisible yet somehow tangible energy about this town that never stops, no matter what the hour or the day, an electricity in the air, something... In every direction you look there is something to see, monotony remains forever outside the city limits. The people you meet are filled with charactar and possessing of a lively sense of humor, quick on the uptake, constantly busy at something or nothing, but busy just the same, yet appreciative of all that transpires around them and forever ready to give their honest opinions at the drop of a hat. Even immigrants from slow, laid back, "manana, manana" type countries are infected with the pulse of New York, their own personalities adjusted by the powerful ambience of the city to match those of the natives so that ethnic differences are much less apparent here than in other cities, despite the multiculturalism forced upon New York by its liberal majority.

Of course, being a New Yorker who has been living in San Francisco, I have to say that there is a large difference between New York liberals and California liberals. The former base their thinking in reality and as such can give you a more reasoned argument to back up their political beliefs, wrong or otherwise -- they have the intellectual ability to put together facts and come up with arguments based on those facts rather than on slogans and bumper sticker fodder, and when it comes to taking action in time of need, they usually do the right thing. The latter are wingnuts, pure and simple, who will follow a baseless line of reasoning right into the jaws of hell before they'll consider the stupidity of their position.

So my first evening in New York has ended with a room service smoked salmon omelet, a pot of coffee and some brandy, and tomorrow will be an active day for me, reintroducing myself to my exciting, beloved home town.

Posted by Seth at 10:30 PM | Comments (5) |

September 05, 2005


Saturday was pretty laid back compared to the previous days of my stay here in Chicago, slept in, had a long lunch in Germantown with a friend-- we went to a Mexican eatery called Garcia's that she was raving about, a quiet little neighborhood establishment. The food was good, the neighborhood worth exploring, which we did.

Quaint, a lot of old shops of the type that have been mostly replaced in other areas and cities by newer businesses with only a fraction of the charactar of Germantown's own. Two traditional delis on the same block, a Greek restaurant with outdoor tables, an old German sausage store, an open plaza with a fountain, shops that sold pewter and glass and really interesting blown glass goods, a couple of German brauhauses my friend, who had lived in the neighborhood for many years, told me were great places to hang out at. So we had a couple of beers at one.

That night, I had some folks here in my suite for drinks and it turned into an all night party, finally ending after sunrise, so I ended up sleeping well into Sunday afternoon and spent yesterday around the hotel recuperating, as it were, then the evening included a hearty room service dinner of penne pasta in a sauce that was abundant with Italian sausage, and molten lava cake for dessert followed by a couple of hours at the bar before going to bed early in order to get up early.

I'm flying to Washington, D.C. today, and I tend to like getting up really early when I have a plane to catch{it's 5:30 am}.

Tomorrow the counter-rally for Judge Roberts begins, and I'll be there from start to finish. My first political rally, I'm really looking forward to it, and wondering what surprises there might be due to the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. A lot of the liberal wingnuts are already yelling for a postponement of the confirmation vote, citing both the time proximity of the disaster in the south{they claim it will mean too much on Bush's plate at one time, but as we have seen, this president and his cabinet are more than capable of extreme multitasking -- and George Bush isn't a senator, he won't be voting anyway -- and what some of them term "irreverence" in timing because of Mr. Rehnquist's sudden passing}.

Is the latter a hoot, or what? Democrats concerned about irreverence! Here are people who have no problem using dead military personnel, funerals, natural disasters and any other grave circumstances to press their partisan political agendas, and they've got the moxi to want us to believe they give a flying f--- about irreverence? Gimme a break!

These are people who accuse Bush of failing the people of New Orleans and making a racial issue out of the Katrina horror instead of attaching blame where it belongs, like to the black mayor of New Orleans who let his own people down by not doing his job by adhering to disaster response plans, instead slinking quickly away to safety in Baton Rouge, and the equally useless governor of Louisiana, who was as impotent in her own response as former liberal California Governor Gray Davis was to the exponentially less cataclismic energy crisis we had out there a few years ago.

These are people who, because it fits into their political agenda, ignore the fact that responding to the havoc wrought by Katrina was the direct responsibility of those local excuses for political leaders, not Bush. Democrats' failure resulted in misery and death on a massive scale, and now they want to blame Bush. The left grows more pathetic by the hour, it makes me feel ashamed that these folks are somehow entitled to call themselves Americans.

That said, I'll post some more from Washington, D.C.   

Posted by Seth at 10:14 AM | Comments (2) |

September 02, 2005


Today started early, since I got to bed earlier than anticipated. Room Service breakfast, pretty good, though they were kind of skimpy on the potatoes, and it was the first time I've ever had fresh asparagus spears as a breakfast garnish(unless I was meant to eat 'em, which I didn't) and I was out the door around noon.

My friends Carolyn, Patrick, Elaine and I went to the Navy Pier, one of Chicago's tourist attractions, though a lot of locals also hang out there, there are some good bars and places to eat, plus a lot of good stuff for kids and I actually got to buy and munch on one of my favorite all time snacks, one I haven't enjoyed since the last time I was on the Atlantic City Boardwalk: A funnel cake!

Funnel cakes aren't complicated, they're basically a carnie food of fried dough and powdered sugar, but man, they're GREAT{even more than Frosted Flakes}!

We went for a 90 minute cruise on a four masted schooner named Windy-- I couldn't resist, had to drag the others along, of course, and I even got to help with the line handling. It was a lot of fun. Afterwards, we had lunch outdoors at Bubba Gump's, a shrimp restaurant that I found quite good, then it was off to the Water Tower, a mall that isn't much different from malls anyplace else, except for a glass walled elevator bank wherein you can see all the works and a cute stairstep styled marble fountain between the up and down escalators between the first and second floors that spits water bubbles straight up in the air. While we were at the Water Tower, I opened a T-Mobile Hot Spot account.

Claire, my stock broker friend, has invited me to dinner, but hasn't told me where, so that should be a nice surprise. She's not quite the party animal that most of my Chicago friends are, so I'll have the opportunity to give my liver some quality time.

WELL..... I stand corrected, it appears, much to my surprise and undoubtedly the surprise of many others, that we are not alone where dealing with the New Orleans crisis is concerned, a number of countries have offered to help. I've been kind of out of touch with all the gallivanting around I've been doing since I got here, and when I got back to my hotel awhile ago, I found a comment by Dan Trabue of pacifist fame, http://www.paynehollow.blogspot.com , in which he informed me of my wrongness. Thank you, Dan. See? You're not always a royal payne. :-)

My linking icon has gone dim for some reason and the support folks at squarespace gave me a reply that was the laziest excuse for tech support I've ever received, maybe they ought to start employing the "Boyz From Bangalore," whom I'm sorry to say kick ass on Squarespace support. While I'm in DC, I'm going to spend at least one evening checking out alternative blog venues, maybe Blogger. Anyone got any suggestions?

More later.  

Posted by Seth at 09:44 PM | Comments (5) |

Back To Posting

And I finally get time to post something, yay!

Chicago is an awesome town. I arrived yesterday evening via the Friendly Skies folks, who served me the first meal I've ever had on a plane that I could say was truly delicious: Smoked salmon with prosciutto and shiitake 'shrooms(I told that to one of the flight attendants, who laughed and said, "That's because we didn't have to cook it").

I decided to go "whole hog" this time out and am ensconced in a suite at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place with a great view of the Chicago skyline from the living room, two full baths, two big TVs, speaker phones all over the place and, most important, high speed internet access. I can also use the Wi-Fi access in a comfortable sitting room off the lobby. When I checked in, I saw all sorts of Cleveland Browns running around the hotel and learned that they were here to play a pre-season game with the Bears. They did, and won 10-0. Boo.

The people here are quick and full of character, but then this is the 2nd City, New York's inland cousin and as such home of the second best pizza in America. OOOOOPS! Around here, them kin be fightin' words, almost as bad as making derogatory remarks about the Cubs.

I spent yesterday evening with several friends I hadn't seen in a long time and there was much imbibing, then I had a casual business meeting with a prospective partner in a small enterprise we're contemplating. Then there was more libation.

I had intended to post after breakfast today, but two significant factors got in the way:

1. The night became morning before I was alone and I finally hit the rack, so by the time I crawled feebly out of bed it was well past the hour Room Service here serves breakfast, and 

2. As I was performing my first-thing-in-the(I can't say morning in this case, so)-day's-period-of-consciousness of checking my email(which includes comments made here at my blog) I was looking at the clock on my computer, forgetting(it had been some night) that it was still set on west coast time, and when I glanced at the face of my faithful Tag, I realized it was two hours later than I'd thought. "Seth," I grumbled, "you be's a moe-ron."

So I had to kind of scramble to shower, shave and get out to meet still another amigo for a cold one, then get to my bank here to withdraw some cash-- It's good to carry some cash when you travel, it comes in handy in any number of ways-- then off to the Nike store as I'd neglected to pack my sneakers before I left S.F. For those of you who have never been to Chicago, Michigan Avenue, in the Loop, can be a financial death trap: It's too damn easy to spend too much money without even making any effort to do so, there's something in the atmosphere of the place, the facades and the presentation of the window displays, that can instantly slam even the most miserly curmudgeon into shopping mode. Having walked past and viewed the window at Johnston & Murphy, after I bought a pair of Nikes I went back and bought a pair of $200.00 loafers. $200.00, cripes! Now I suppose I'll need to go out and buy a picture frame for them, or something. I feel like "The son of Imelda Marcos."

Back to the hotel briefly, to answer emails and my two blog comments, then out to dinner with a trio of friends at the Tavern On Rush. I had blackened Cajun shrimp and a magnificent filet mignon with crab meat, asparagus and hollandaise sauce, an interesting deviation from my usual beef-and-potato simplicity, easily rating 5 yum-stars. And more libations were enjoyed by all. I would highly recommend Tavern On Rush as not only a superb place to eat and drink, but also as part of a good Chicago experience.

It's a good thing that most of the people I know in DC are moderate, family types, or by the end of next week I'd be dead from cirrhosis.

The biggest topic of conversation by far, among all my friends here, has been the destructive assault on New Orleans by Katrina the Bitch. Having lived there in years past, I know a lot of people in New Orleans and wonder how they're making out, as it's impossible to contact any of them. Imagine the scene, whole neighborhoods ripped apart, floods dominating the city, looters, including a few of "Nawlins' finest," rampaging in an orgy of opportunistic assholicism, families and individuals who just last week were going about their ordinary lives now homeless, scared and tragic like refugees from a wartorn country. It breaks my heart to think of friends I can't even contact being in the midst of such a nightmare.

Powerful thunderstorms are an almost daily occurrence during the summer in New Orleans, and one year when I was there, such a storm caused heavy flooding, more than three feet deep, which destroyed the ground floors of tens of thousands of houses and carried away moveable objects such as garbage cans, bicycles and so forth, but that wasn't even a significant fraction of that which has been unleashed by Katrina.

My prayers go out to the people of New Orleans.


Ongoing rescue operations, reparation of the immense damage and the rebuilding of the Crescent City are going to present an obscenely high cost in terms of money, manpower, food, shelter, psychological counselling, building materials and sanitary venues.

That leads to an interesting question: After the tsunami that obliterated a large chunk of Asia, while the U.S. was contributing more to relief efforts than any other country, Koffi & Kompany were berating us for not giving enough. 

Now that parts of Mississippi and Louisiana are suffering from a similar disaster, will those same Kountries offer their help? Or will this be "The Americans' problem" as usual?


Tomorrow will probably be another late riser for me, as I have a friend coming over for drinks(the bar in my suite is down to one ridiculously large bottle of Johnny Walker Black and most of another, equally ridiculously large bottle of Sauza Hornitos tequila, all sorts of mixers, lime slices and assorted Sam Adams and Heinekens) when he gets off work at 11:00, but I intend to spend a good part of tomorrow and most of Saturday taking in some of the more wholesome samplings of Chicago.

Posted by Seth at 01:03 AM |