Sunday, November 30, 2008

NYC Memories

First, hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving. We had a very pleasant day and recalled our many blessings.

I've been meaning to put this post up for a while, but just been busy. There's a lot of things I could blog about as there's a lot going on right now. But I promised to get this out first.

I will begin by saying my first impression of NYC was not very good. It was back in 2005 when I went to see Queen/Paul Rogers. Besides the concert, the highlight of the trip was meeting Julz for the first time. We got along famously. The city, however, I found to be dirty and difficult to get around in. I was completely unprepared for the amount of time it takes to actually get anywhere. We'd hoped to get a few attractions in before the show and we got next to nothing accomplished.

When travelling to NYC this time, I lowered my expectations (or perhaps had more realistic expectations). And I must say, I had a blast! I did a lot of walking in the finance district (and up to SoHo). It's a very cool city just to wander in, as long as you stay on main roads. Of course, getting to hook up with Julz again and meeting Lisa B were high points. And the training seminar I attended was very good as well. They fed us fabulous lunches each day (things like shrimp scampi, chicken cordon bleu, salmon, sandwiches). The buffet was to die for!

My hotel was right across from the Pit (Ground Zero). I could look down into it from my hotel window. The Woolworth building was literally a block from the hotel and City Hall was about 3 blocks away. So there was plenty to see in the little spare time I had. One thing that struck me was that NYC is perpetually under construction. It's so big that something's always being worked on. I guess when you accept that and remember it's really an old city, then the scope of it doesn't overwhelm you. Also, the tall buildings didn't make me feel closed in like the last time. And it didn't hurt that I'm in much better shape this time around to walk the city.

Couple of amusing things (or notable things) happened on the trip. I'll give you the bullet synopsis:

Century 21: I had never heard of this store before. But it was literally next door to the hotel. Apparently, it's a MAJOR discount department store. I was told people from overseas make a special trip to shop there. I must say, it was a zoo the evening I went in there, and that was like a Tuesday night. To begin with, they'd decorated the outside for Christmas, meaning they draped the place in red lights spaced about 2 feet apart. It was so bright I swear you could see it from space. You certainly could see it from many blocks away. It was my major evening landmark in finding my hotel. I didn't spend long inside the place, since I hate waiting in long lines to buy stuff, but I got a kick ass scarf for about $7. So the hype was true.

Dining out: My last evening in NYC, I was wandering around trying to find a good place for dinner for one. I was in the mood for Italian, but couldn't really find any resteraunts easily as I wandered through Little Italy, which was surprising. It was after dark, so I didn't want to search too hard. On my way back to the hotel in the Chinatown area, as I walked down Broadway, I found a little bistro right on Broadway that had fabulous sounding Italian dishes so I took a chance. Great little place! I got a kick out of the two guys next to me going on about something texted to one of the two of them. They sounded like a gay couple! Though I doubt they were. I got a call from Deni while waiting for dinner, which made my evening. The amusing part of the experience was my waitress. When I asked for the bill, she wrote on it that tip was NOT included in the price, suggested 18-20% tip, and kindly calculated a 20% tip! Now, maybe servers in NYC deal with a lot of foreigners that don't believe in tipping, however, I spoke quite good english, with only an upstate accent which is very understandable. I've seen suggested tip (at different levels) on a check before, but I've NEVER been to a resteraunt where the server had to remind me to tip them! And not for nothing, while the service was good and food excellent, it wasn't 20% good. I usually give around 15% for good service. In any event, I got a big kick out of that. The evening ended with me getting a text from a bandmate asking if I was on my way to practice. I had to remind her I was in NYC. Fun night.

Bartender: This almost pissed me off and I was ready to complain to the front desk over it. I was having trouble getting good wireless access with my Verizon air card in my hotel room. I don't know why, but the reception in the part of NYC I stayed just sucked. When I logged in from LaGuardia, reception and speed was great. Anyway, I found I got better reception from the lobby, so I decided to sit at a table at the lobby bar to work. I had a drink from my room with me. It was a little crowded, but there was an empty table, which I grabbed. I had a bartender come up to me and state the table was taken (there was nobody even standing near the seats when I sat down) and that I may have to leave. I played it cool, but I was a little miffed! I was a paying guest at the hotel (and not a cheap one, BTW). I figured at those prices I was entitled to sit at the bar and not order overpriced drinks if I wanted! I was more than willing to get up and go if asked, but I'd have walked right to the front desk and had a few words with the manager. Luckily, no one disturbed me while I worked. I also noted when I left that the bartender that had spoken to me wasn't there. I did mention the incident in my customer satisfaction survey, however.

Overall, I had a very pleasant trip. Training went well, I got certified in ITIL fundamentals, and I got to hang with great people. Can't wait to go back!


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Almost

Today I took one last shot at getting together with Deni. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. Our schedules just didn't mesh. However, while in a nice little bistro on Broadway, I got a call on my cell phone and it was Deni! It was totally unexpected and completely made my evening. No kidding, it was like getting a call from your favorite rock star (which she basically is)! We chatted for about 5 minutes and it was most pleasant. Deni was totally beat and I could relate to her wanting to just veg on her couch tonight.

One of these days our schedules are going to match up, I swear it. Hopefully she can book some shows out my way in Western NY (or up around Albany so I can book a trip to headquarters around one of her shows!). Anyway, my training in NYC is complete and I'm headed back home tomorrow morning. You'll get my thoughts on NYC in the near future, including some amusing anecdotes about the bartender at the hotel, Century 21, and the hostess serving me tonight.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Another wonderful evening

Today I got to meet Lisa B and her companion, HCFG. I was quite the wonderful evening. Before beginning, I would like to summarize in that Lisa B was as wonderful, gracious, charming, and interesting as I'd imagined her to be. HCFG was indeed a fun guy. I can see how women would find him cute and allow that to imply he is indeed hot. However, I'm not a good judge of hotness in guys, so I defer to Lisa's judgement on the matter.

With that out of the way, we met at a little French bistro type of place a few blocks from the hotel. HCFG got there first and we talked shop for a short time waiting for Lisa. He's an ex-IT geek and we had much in common. It was nice to get most of the shop talk out of the way before Lisa arrived so her eyes wouldn't have to glaze over from boredom. When Lisa arrived, she was much as I'd imagined her, much like the picture of her on her blog, a young, svelt, attractive lady that obviously was a dog owner. Don't ask me how I could tell that.

I felt bad for our waiter since both Lisa and HCFG knew exactly what they wanted to order and I was so busy chatting and getting aquainted that I didn't even bother to look at the menu. It was hard to turn my eyes away from the lovely blogger sitting across from me. However, order we did. Food was very good but the company was much better. We chatted about much, from kids, to the evil that IT guys do, to relationships, to where we were from. We were there a good couple of hours.

As always, the fun did have to end, since Lisa had to check on Ally da Pup. We reluctantly left the restaurant but I must admit it was most pleasing to meet them. It's always great to put a voice and face to the person behind the blog. I certainly look forward to getting together again the next time I might be in town. Which might be sooner than about 3 years. I've enjoyed my stay in NYC much better than the last time I was here. I'll have to blog about that separately.

Many thanks to Lisa and HCFG for the good food and company. I hope they enjoyed the evening as much as I did.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

NYC Day 1

Today I flew into NYC for my training seminar. It goes from Monday to Wednesday. Getting out here wasn't too bad. The kids didn't seem sorry to see me go since I had to remind both of them to give dad a hug before I went through airport security. They were more interested in seeing planes take off. I see how I rate. At least the Wife was kind enough to kiss me farewell.

I realized I was in for a bumpy ride on the plane when we walked on to the tarmac to get on it. It was one of those dual prop models. I was in seat 9C and it was in the LAST ROW. A bus seats more passengers than this plane. It was windy (both in Rochester and NYC). As a result, the plane really bounced around both on takeoff and landing. At altitude, it was fine, but I thought we were going to crash land instead of just land.

My hotel is great. My window on the 51st floor looks right down into the whole where the World Trade Center used to be. Other than that, the view is great. The room itself is quite nice. Kind size bed and nice size desk. Big TV.

The highlight of the evening was hanging out with Julz. It's been 3 years since I've seen her in the flesh (how time flies!). She came to the hotel around 6 and we took off for dinner. We found a nice pub/cucino in the Village area and had a great meal while watching the Steelers beat the Ravens. We were both stuffed after dinner so decided to take a "digestion" walk. We walked around the Village and ended up walking back to the hotel. I'm not sure how long we were at it, but the game ended around 7 and we got back to the hotel at 9. It seemed like no time at all. Julz was excellent company and we just chatted about everything and nothing all at once. It was a pity she had to head back, but all good things must come to an end. Hopefully it won't be another 3 years before I get a chance to hang out with her again.

Right now it looks like Tuesday I'll be getting together with Lisa B. and possibly Deni. I'm looking forward to that. I was hoping to catch Deni in concert but she played Carnagie Hall last night and has another gig day after I leave. The timing is not there this time. More to come!


Friday, November 14, 2008

Not a Useless Bitch

I was reading a post over at Pandora's place where she linked to a post she did at Ornery Women. My comment reminded me of a great story. I'll let you go and get the story of what a Useless Bitch is, but suffice it to say this is a shining example of why the Wife is neither.

Back when we moved to Virginia Beach, we bought ourselves our first home and less than a month after moving in, I deployed overseas for 6 months. This left the Wife to fend for herself for 6 months without the opportunity to make a lot of new friends. Any issues that came up, she had to deal with on her own. I must say, she was quite successful at it. A short list of achievements: changing the oil on her car on her own, managing to get a 100 pound microwave cart box from the car into the house AND assembling it (we still have it BTW), and figuring out how to reset power breakers.

The last is even more an accomplishment. The microwave had a tendency to trip the breaker whenever you turned it on with the fridge running. The first time it happened, she had no idea what to do. So she called a buddy of mine assigned to a different ship that was in port and asked him what to do. HE DIDN'T KNOW! When she related this to me I was flabbergasted that a male of the species did not know something as simple as how to reset a breaker that was in the trip free position. To the Wife's credit, she did the smart thing. Turned the breaker off, then turned it on. And lo, there was power, and much rejoicing.

So count the Wife among the Useful People. She's got mad skilz.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I Done Doed It

Today I got the letter in the mail, the one I've been waiting for. It was from Empire State College. I almost didn't want to open it, but did. First word in the letter (after they got my name backward and called me Mr. Vincenzo) was Congratulations!

That's right, I've been accepted to the MBA program at Empire State College. Assuming something crazy doesn't happen, I'll be starting in the spring semester. I've been assigned a mentor to help with my program. I've emailed her on next steps. I was sweating a little bit tongiht because the letter indicated something about heading to Saratoga Springs for 2 days for a "residency" course. Since I plan on studying on line, I began to fret that the MBA program required on site study. I did some digging on the web site and found the statement in the MBA area about being able to study primarily on line. PHEW! So now I wait for a response from the professor.

Who would have thought that I'd be giddy and actually looking forward to spending the next 4 years of my life busting my ass during every free moment I have? Probably spending each night after the kids go to bed working and studying? But one of my co-workers probably said it best. I was talking to her about my plans and she said I just lit up when I talked about it. I'm really excited about the start of what may be a new chapter in my life. Luckily I have the support of the Wife and kids and I have no problem putting all of my other interests basically on hold for a while.

Now begins all the work required to get registered and approved through work to get reimbursed for the courses. Yup, my employer will be paying a big part of the bill. Reimbursement is based on grades, but I expect to get VERY good grades. If the Navy taught me one thing, it's how to study. And I'm highly motivated. Wish me luck everyone!


Sunday, November 09, 2008

No rest for the weary

Again it's been one of those non-stop kind of weekends. Friday, we were invited to a friend's home for dinner with some other couples we know. A priest from our diocese was also invited and actually cooked! He's been a chef in a former life and made just HEAVENLY (no pun intended) dishes! There were a couple of beef dishes, scallop stir fry, chicken with a wonderful cream sauce, and ELK! I didn't even know it was elk until the next day. Didn't know how I missed that, but it tasted like steak and was incredibly tender. We hung out for hours just chatting and laughing. It was mostly people associated with the band which made it quite fun. They boys were even invited and had a pretty good time, although by about 9 pm Grasshopper was getting really bored and doing laps through the house.

Yesterday was filled with grounds cleanup at church with Maverick's scout troup, grocery shopping, eye exam for the Wife, and then playing 5 pm Mass with the band followed by a youth fun fest. The last even far exceeded everyone's expectations. They had 30 kids pre-register and 100 kids show up! We had food, games, basketball, volleyball, and a movie. Basically let 5th to 8th grade kids just hang out and be kids. It was a total blast.

Today was catch up day. I did have to head out to check out a used horn for Maverick. He keeps forgetting his sax at school so we're going to get him a decent used one to leave there for lessons and band. Then he'll have his good one for practicing at home and performances. The guy selling it was gracious enough to let me put a deposit on it and take it so Maverick's teacher can check it out. Maverick played it and it sounds pretty good, so I think it will be ok, but I want an expert opinion and someone to validate the price is commesurate with the condition. Last minute Maverick's friend called inviting him to a high school football game. Our district high school team is in the Class AA final for Section 5 (and are ahead by 12 as I write this!). So go Gates Chili Spartans!

Tomorrow it's back to the grind. Couple of side notes. I've totally gone over to the dark side. No, I didn't get a Mac. I've running Windows Vista at work and at home. And liking it. Also, I'll be in NYC next week. I've already set up a dinner date with Lisa B and am trying to find some time to meet up with Evil Julz and Deni Bonet. Wish me luck! I'll be attending training for a few days. Hope everyone's weekend was a blast. While things were hectic here, it was a lot of fun.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

On a political issue

This being election eve, I thought I would talk about a "political" issue not directly related to the election. Someone asked in a comment on a previous post what I thought about my friend and her commitment ceremony. To be clear, she and her partner, also a female, had a commitment ceremony in a chapel, presided over by a priest. It was not a wedding, and they were not married in the Catholic church. We had a great reception afterwards. The next day, the headed to Canada and were legally married there in a civil ceremony. Current NYS laws supposedly should recognize this legal union.

So how do I feel about this? I actually discussed this during the reception (very quietly, of course) with one of the other band members and his wife. (One of the brides is my bandmate.) There was some good back and forth. They both had some trouble with the ceremony. They both love our bandmate dearly, but are not sure that gay marriage (or legal unions) are consitant with our Catholic faith. They find it hard in that it's now personal, not just about a vague "them". In the end, I think they're very torn. One of them said something to the effect that is it truly "married" love, or was it more a friendship kind of love confused as something deeper?

So, how do I feel about this? I thought the ceremony was beautiful. My pal was simply radiant. I mean, she looked like she was glowing. I've never seen her so happy. She reminded me of the way I felt when I got married.

Still wondering what I really think? It's very simply this. I don't see how I can judge another couple's happiness. I'm fully in favor of legal marriage between two people. Period. Legal marriage has certain legal rights associated with it that should be enjoyed by anyone wanting to enter into that relationship. As far as religious marriage, each denomination should decide for itself whether they wish to offer that Sacrament to thier congregation. The Catholic church believes the Sacrament of Marriage is reserved for men and women only.

And me personally? I really don't know what God intends. I could take the view of most biblical scholars and say homosexuality is a sin. But then I have a problem judging other people that way. I prefer to err on the side of love and happiness. My bandmate is obviously in love and very happy. Is it wrong? I'll let God figure that out and treat my bandmate the same way as I always have. Based on her actions. Not by who she prefers to sleep with.