Wednesday, October 25, 2017

My 5th Annual Book Report

NaNoWriMo is imminent once more, and I figure now is a perfectly auspicious time for me to take stock of how I’m doing thus far with my publishing endeavors and to ask my friends which of my in-progress or in-my-head projects I should tackle exclusively for the month of November, which I do annually. The non-self-publishing industry has not yet taken notice of me, but it cannot do this forever, because I’m putting out an average of a book a year until 2095. I don’t know what my numbers will be then, but these are my numbers to date, in order of copies sold, completion percentage, and development stage in my brain, respectively:

Published (5):

54 Runners, 54 Stories: The Tale of the 2012 200k JRunners Relay Race: 78 copies sold. I’m very proud of this one, my current bestseller. I targeted an entire very-niche market, and sold it to nearly all of them. A sequel will be written, but it likely requires a full relay to be deserving of that. It seems promising. May we return speedily to those days, Amen. 
http://tinyurl.com/JRunnersBook

The Year of Bad Behavior: Bearing Witness to the Uncouthiest of Humanity: 71 copies sold. The things that people moan and groan about concerning their fellow man, especially on Facebook, are all covered here. Every time I revisit the manuscript, it feels so current. Proud of this one too. 
http://tinyurl.com/BehaviorBook

Bush II, Book I: 64 copies sold. The world has found this book. It exists somewhere that’s getting attention. Kindle versions are constantly finding themselves into strangers’ hands. Every time 9/11 approaches, I get a spike in sales. 
http://tinyurl.com/BushIIBookI

A Conversation on The Way: 64 copies sold. Reviewed on 3 blogger sites, featured at the YU Seforim Sale, and nicely received. I especially enjoy the artwork by Dena Szpilzinger, the first hired professional of my writing career. I’m hoping to able to afford other services, like editing, though I am grateful to my volunteers. 
http://tinyurl.com/ConvoBook

Extracts From Noah’s Diary: 54 copies sold. Mark Twain wrote Extracts from Adam’s Diary, then followed up later with Eve’s Diary, then did not follow up any further, save for some parodies of Methuselah’s entries. This is where I came in; a sequel 100 years overdue. So big, it’s biblical. I was successful in having it reviewed by a small handful of book sites. I worked hard on the jokes, and strenuously on the research. It’s actually a giant d’var torah, and I feel my newest baby deserves a lot of attention. It is my first book ever to grace the New York Public Library’s shelves. I made it to Valhalla. 
http://tinyurl.com/NoahsDiary

In progress (12):

Bush II, Book II: Manuscript 47% complete. I haven’t tackled this in a while, but it’s time to return. The attention the first book is getting warrants this. Also, I really didn’t think I wouldn’t get the sequel out before Obama’s tenure was complete. Trump, Book I would be a nutball projects to tackle, even though it’ll be over soon.

The Year of Bad Behavior II: More Scalawags, Dirtbags, Bullyrags, and Lollygags: Manuscript 30% complete. I also must return to this as well. The format differs from its prequel – grievances are ordered by category, rather than written as diary entries – and I think I’ll have an interesting product when complete. NJTransit’s stupidities, on their own, warrant a complete spin-off.

Zaidy's War: 20% complete. My maternal grandfather's memoirs, which I recorded in notebooks and on VHSes. This was my NaNoWriMo last year, and I’ve been working on it since. The work is long, but it’s steady. There’s still lots of research to do, and lots of translation to perform, but the work goes on. Zaidy passed away almost four years ago, and it’s important for his story to see the light of day. This is the project I’m most focused on.

A Conversation on the Conversation: Manuscript 20% complete. The first book is begging for a sequel, but it’s going to take lots of work. The quasi-fictional idea is that the original becomes a best-seller, and I’m invited to a talk show to discuss. This is the hard part. I and my interviewer pore over the original manuscript point for point, and I also will include rebuttals to my arguments that I received (in real life) from readers. It’s daunting, big big, but I’ll get it done somehow.

The Haggadah Project #1: 10% complete. There’s a certain pop-culture phenomenon we’re all familiar with, that some of us use more than others, whose adaptation into Hagadah form suddenly obsessed me last year, which I started noodling with, which I can crank out in a month if I remain dedicated to it, which might have the widest appeal, which borrows a bit from the Harry Potter Haggadah published last year, which I’m highly inclined to tackle for November, because I can crank it out that quickly, potentially. I hope I’ve remained cryptic enough for no one to steal my idea.

Forty Runners Less one: Stories and Glories From the 2013 200k JRunners 200k Relay Race: Manuscript: 10% complete. I collected the runner stories and also conducting interviews when needed. I also collected stories for the 2014 version of the race, and actually got 25% of the pack’s write-ups. Same for 2015, but with a drastically dwindled amount, and for 2016, with even smaller numbers, and for 2017, with almost nothing. It looks like the runners are more eager to contribute, as mentioned above, when the relay is a full one. I think I have to pull that off before I pull a book sequel off, in which all past year’s entries that I have on file will be included. I’ll target the same niche group as the original, and hopefully attract more runners to the great race.

The Man Who Read 1,001 Books Before He Died: 6.2% complete. You know those popular 1,001 xxx to xxx Before You Die books? Specifically, the Books to Read one? I thought it would be a neat trick to actually read those 1,001 books and write about the experience. This was what I NaNoWriMoed three years ago, and I’ve been fully immersed since. Whether you measure my status by the number of books I’m up to (62) or the pace at which I’ll read them (I’m scheduled to finish in August 2061. I should live so long!), the number is 6.2%. I’ve got a long way to go, but the progress will be steady. There is no question it’ll be the largest work I’ll ever put out. Not even two years in, it stands at 67,000 words/238 pages.

Mordechai’s Pamphlet: 3% complete. My paternal grandfather’s memoirs. The man for whom I am named recorded his thoughts about losing his wife and three children in WWII, surfacing from the ashes with his faith intact, marrying my grandmother, rebuilding a home with six children, then suffering for years from lung cancer until his death at age 47. He called the collection Kuntres Mordechai, and it is entirely written in Hebrew. I started the translation two NaNoWriMos ago, but admittedly fell of the wagon when my I found a new job, plus I jumped into other writing projects. I have to re-shift priorities and jump back on the wagon again. I’ll revisit after the coming NaNoWriMo, and hope to produce this before the end of next year.

My First 30 Marathons: The Running Story of a Midpack Runner: Putting all my marathon running reports together. Hoping I can find them all. I wonder if I’ll be successful. If I can actually find them, collating should be a snap. Everything’s already been written! This would include the next three marathons I’m running over the next half year, and would exclude the Makeshift Marathon I ran when Sandy canceled NYC in 2012, and also the seven ultras I’ve run. Or maybe they shouldn’t be excluded at all. I’ll think about it.

Children's Book #1 with Classified Title: I'm trying to write a parody of a famous children's book. First draft did not pass muster with my Editor-in-Chief. Not creative enough. Will submit new drafts shortly.

Children's Book #2 with Classified Title: I'm trying to write a parody of a less famous  - albeit more notorious - children's book. First draft did not pass muster with my Editor-in-Chief. Too tawdry. Will submit new drafts shortly.

The Knish’s Best 192 Articles of the First 192 it’s Published: I launched the first issue 14 years ago, and just released issue #32, which was very satisfying. The time may have arrived – as with my Marathon project above – to house them all in a single compendium, as a way of celebrating the site’s anniversary of its Bar Mitzvah. Everything’s written, I just need to write an intro and a timeline and do a pile of formatting. Shouldn’t be a big deal. Problem, though, would be how to share revenue with all the writers. What would be a fair system?

In my head (13):

How the Countries Got Their Shapes: I read a wonderful book entitled How the States Got Their Shapes, by Mark Stein. It’s exactly what you think it is. I did the best research I could, and could find not a single book that covers the concept on a global scale. I could be the man who could fill that gap. I would enjoy the research very much. I wonder if I’d have to ask the author of the inspiration for permission before proceeding.

The Israel/Gaza War: The 102nd Bloodiest Conflict in the World in 2014: Amid the swaths of the myriad piles of articles I read on the topic, one little factoid stood out to me out of all others: that little statistic that I think would be an alarming book title. Because Israel has so many challenges coming from all directions, it also – as a silver lining of sorts – creates opportunities for people concerned for her to battle on her behalf. Perhaps I could contribute in this way, by helping to focus attention away from Israel and towards at least 101 other places on earth that deserve more international concern and intervention. I would have to come face to face with a lot of evil, though, plus the research would be difficult, and the data murky. This might be a calling I might have to answer, though.

Territorial Disputes: A Primer on the 600 Other International Land Quarrels No One Knows or Cares About, But Should: Along the same lines as above: a very long story, very short: somehow a miracle happened that the president of a publishing company invited me to present to his committee - that publishes books in a “Things You Need To Know” motif - my thoughts around how only Israel – and perhaps Cyprus/Turkey and India/Pakistan – gets vilified over its land issues with its neighbors. My project was declined, but it’s being kept on the burner. If they won’t go with it, perhaps I’ll strike out on my own (something I’m familiar with). As above, this might be an opportunity to shine the spotlight on an area more deserving, and away from where it is currently. Which project would be worthier? Hmmm…

Children's Book #3 with Classified Title: I was inspired by a series of photographs that I took of my children. My Editor-in-Chief has some great ideas about spinning it into a bedtime story. I’m pondering the text, and will need an illustrator to convert the pictures we have into artwork for the book.

Parenting Book with Classified Title: There are many parenting books out there. Most of them are garbage. I have an idea for one with a healthy dose of humor and a large general twist. My everyday parenting keeps inspiring ideas for the project. I think I’m to begin putting pen-to-paper on this shortly.

The Inevitables: A Gladwellian idea I have about people who spend their entire lives in pursuit of a specific career, switch to something else on a dime, and become wildly successful despite a complete lack of practice or the 10,000 hours Gladwell himself talks about.

Universals: The Differences and Similarities Between Global Cultures: I’m fascinated by this. There are things that are the same 99% of everywhere (basic utensils, green is go, cash for service, elemental human needs), and things that are different 99% of everywhere (voting systems, traffic handling, cordiality, attire, interpretation of freedom, hand gestures, justice). I’d like to explore. I’ve been traveling more lately on behalf of my corporation, and my cultural experiences have expanded, as has my curiosity.

Speakers of the Torah: My first actual sefer-esque idea. While researching my Noah book, it struck me how little dialogue God has with his direct primordial creations. Noah never speaks to God. Adam speaks two utterances to his Creator. Eve speaks to Him more than her husband does. There is also limited dialogue between man and man. I read a discourse by the famous Nechama Leibowitz on the dialogues of the biblical Joseph. She made fascinating conclusions, and it left me intrigued. I think this idea is worth exploring in full, and I wonder where the research will take me. I’ll start writing notes on this, and see where it leads.

Things that Drive Me Crazy About the Talmud: My second actual even more sefer-esque idea. My shadchan self-published a sefer recently, borne out of notes he kept while learning through TaNaCH over a 15-year period. They were truly original thoughts that he compressed into a single, impressive volume. I realized while reading that our thought-lines were quite similar, especially in regards to the myriad unanswered questions – and potentially original ones – that I had about the gemorah, in which I’m currently immersed in my second cycle of learning. I have begun to keep notes, and here too, I will look back after a time and see if I have anything worthy of being recorded in a single large volume. Apologies, I don’t have a more polite title at this time – and maybe I’ll just go with it.

The Haggadah Project #2: I have another pop-culture inflected idea for an haggadah, but first let me finish the other one. This one would be more niche, but perhaps more fun to put together.

Obama, Book I: Must Finish Bush II, Book II first.

Obama, Book II: I never thought there’d be a sequel.

Trump, Book I: OMG no.

When you let me know which project I should tackle – or stay focused on - for November, also please let me know what my grade is on my report.

Oh, and feel free to avail yourself to a book of mine or two (Just a few more sales and I will have sold 350 books; nice little milestone) at 50%-75% off. I'll have several more items on my bookshelf for you very soon, but for now, truly, the lineup is quite colorful, and pleasing to the eye – at least to mine: 
http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/mbodeka...http://tinyurl.com/BodekKindleBooks

Man, I also gotta put out another issue of TheKnish.com and release some more of my surname articles…

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Notes from my 2nd 2-Day Toronto Business Trip

Notes from my 2nd 2-Day Toronto Business Trip
By
Martin Bodek



Day 1:

3:00 AM: Rise and shine, take 1. Help my MIL with her bags, grab a quick meal, get all my stuff ready at the front door, see my MIL into her Uber at 3:45 AM, for her flight back home, and I plop back asleep on the couch.

4:45 AM: Rise and shine, take 2. Grab another quick bite, grab my bags, wait for my Uber, and hope he arrives before my 5:00 AM morning sprinklers soak both him and me.

He arrives at 4:57, baby, and whisks me off to Newark Airport. Claudio is the man.

I arrive so early, that I’m the only person on the TSA line. The only one. Just me. Doesn’t mean they badger me any less, or ratchet down their condescending treatment. They treat me just the same. I’m patted down again, this time, a bit too intimately. The Friends episode where Chandler uses Joey’s tailor comes to mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTzEybULzRg

I survive the ordeal, make my way to the gate, and look up at the clock. From the front door of my house to the gate has taken me all of 35 minutes. Wow!

I’m using Porter Air again. A Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, with the funky propellers and landing gear that descend from the engines, which is six feet from my face. I take videos of them in action, taking off and landing, because I’m a kid like that.

We ascend into cotton-candy clouds, and the flight is not uneventful, but in a great way.

Now see, Toronto is Northwest of Newark, at a bearing of 307º, whilst we are headed along a bearing of 303º, towards a spot which is 33 miles directly south of Toronto (Yes, I had to look up all these terms), which is off course.

Why do I even notice this?

Because directly outside my window is Niagara Falls, and it is astonishing and beautiful from my vantage point. I grab as many pictures as I can. They’re gorgeous and I’m happy I have them.

We then ride along the Northwest rim of Lake Ontario and land safely. I take more videos of the landing gear. I’ve been busy with my phone for this flight.

I land safely. When I describe to Border Patrol the purpose of my visit in a creative way, I actually elicit laughter. Finally! I guess I’m something like 1 for 147.

I get my car rental lickety-split, am tickled to death once again by the fact that a ferry gets me to the mainland, immediately switch to 88.1, the greatest radio station on the planet, and enjoy all this great music throughout my visit, which you’ll never hear in the U.S.:

Big Data, Dangerous: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8b4xYbEugo, don’t watch the video. It is NSFW naughty, shockingly gory, and flat-out insane.
July Talk, Beck + Call: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OkqAztfS-4, great combination of talented and interesting voices.
Arcade Fire, Everything Now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zC30BYR3CUk, excellent music, ABBA-ish, and superior to the garbage noise they called music on SNL (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=16Ut5B1K-14).
July Talk, Push + Pull: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWywb9i-z7Y, there they are again. Man, that guy’s voice is something.
The Killers, The Man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfedYa_JovE, this one might make it to The States. You heard it here first!
Bjork, It’s Oh So Quiet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htobTBlCvUU, never heard the full song. So big-band bat$#!+ bonkers that you have to love it.

I judge places by their signage.

Toronto is very eager to let you know when an exit off a highway is coming up, at least four times within a quarter mile of the exit.

On the other hand, I keep seeing this sign that says, “Buses Excepted.” Uh, buses excepted from what? Finally, after five such examples, I see another one with a sign above it that says, “No right turns.” Aha. Hey Toronto, you have at least five signs whose introductory information is missing. Clean that up, will ya?

Work at site 1.

Now, I have the kind of job where people report problems to you, then, in person, the problem disappears.

However, in this case, every possible problem appears. Fascinating.

Off to site 2.

Let’s stop for lunch. I need a sandwich and coffee.

I find a kosher bakery (Amazing Donuts). They have neither sandwiches, nor coffee.

I try the pizza shop (Pizza Café) next door. They have sandwiches, no coffee.

A café with no coffee.

I have a sandwich, and I’ll get a coffee from the Starbucks on the corner.

While I’m chowing down, I notice an Aroma restaurant across the street.

Guess what it says on the awning?

Sandwiches and coffee.

Life is like that.

Off to site 2.

Work.

Boy the people are friendly here.

I walk through a set of doors and hold it for the person behind me. She says, “Thanks!”

I open the next set of doors, and hold, she says, “Double thanks!”

In New York, the second hold would be met with a nod and grunt, the first “Thanks!” having usually expended the day’s full politeness output.

I take out some cash from an ATM. They have transparent bills! Awesome! Check it out: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/business/2011/11/canada-introduces-new-plastic-currency/

After work, I head out for a quick dinner. I suddenly find myself in a neighborhood that is clearly – from the looks of the imposing, impressive, impossibly-sized houses – the Beverly Hills of Toronto.

I’m right. It’s called Bridle Path, and it’s the most affluent neighborhood in all of Canada. Houses go up to $27 mill. Prince, of blessed memory, had a house here.


I notice there are bicyclists all over this town. I also notice that none of them – that’s none, as in *none* - uses hand signals.

I don’t even know what the hand signals mean, but it doesn’t matter. When a cyclist puts out an arm and does motion-y things with it, I give a wide berth, plain and simple.

C’mon folks, the life you save may be your own.

I have a quick, yummy dinner at Bubby’s Bagels, and grab some snacks for the road. We’re goin’ downtown.

I find underground, self-explanatory, self-parking (death before valet) and go looking for the Canadian Walk of Fame. Waze leads me into the lobby of an office building. Oopsie. Google leads me to the right spot. I’m here to see one name above all, and I find it: Terry Fox. My first, and eternal, running hero.

I find him, and I notice there’s no signature. He didn’t live long enough.

I also notice a Mordecai Richler. There are Martins aplenty across various Walks of Fame, but I don’t think there are many that have my Hebrew forename. Turns out, my dad is a fan.

Off to the Rogers Centre to see the Jays vs. Rays. It’ll be my 7th major league baseball stadium. I’m a little behind Bartolo Colon’s record of 44.

It’s here where I decide this is a city of drunks. I’ll get to that in a minute.

First, security: They want you to remove your cellphones, camera, and sunglass cases. Everything else you can carry through the metal detector. Interesting.

Second, the kosher stand: The line is out to Lake Michigan, I swear. I’ll be back later.

Third, my seat: $43 to sit four rows behind the Jays dugout. I’d have to pass my child over to molech to grab a seat like that at Yankee Stadium.

Fourth, my family: Back home, my wife tries her darndest to find the game on TV, finally managing to jump through some serious hoops to get it done, but they never see me. From screenshots, I can tell that on multiple occasions, I was an inch out of frame. Our boys were furious. I’ll make it up to them with a Yanks or Giants game.

Fifth, the game itself: Awesome. Jays come from behind to win 7-6.

Now, let’s discuss these drunks.

Drunk #1: Or, as I call him, The Boring Drunk. This guy sits four seats over to my right, with his daughter, and keeps ordering tall beers until he’s smashed. I’m frequently used to pass along the money in one direction, and the beer in another.

Why do I call him boring? Because despite getting drunker and drunkier and drunkiest, his material never changes.

He starts with “Hey Jose! Hit the ball!” and ends with “Ayyy, Joosurey, hizz the blah.”

Gotta change it up, dude!

He doesn’t even care which beer he’s getting. At the end of the game, with at least 7 tall beers in him, he orders his last, as follows: ‘Ayyy, feermen, g’me whizzoover is goalest.”

Translation: “Hey, Beerman, give me whichever is coldest.”

Drunk #2: The Funny Drunk. This guy is about five rows behind me, drinking at the same pace as Drunk #1, but keeping the material fresh. Well, in the sense that he’s trying different things, but centered around a general motif: the quality of player in at-bats in various comparisons to as many female private parts as can be counted. He cannot be shushed, and women literally cover their children’s ears when this guy sends his piehole flapping. He is a riot.

Drunk #3: This is the unnerving one, whereas the first two are just for fun. You can’t be surrounded by this many drunks without getting into a problem, can you?

Here’s what happens:

I exit my seat to pee, and get me some of that kosher food, not necessarily in that order.

When I return, I notice dozens of fans gathered around the entrance to the steps to their seats. I figure, maybe they’re just trying to get a better view. I unfold my ticket, present it to the usher, and keep moving forward. She stops me, and says, “You have to wait until he’s finished with his at-bat.”

Oh, I never heard of a rule like that. Okay, no problem. I fold up my ticket and wait for the at-bat to be over.

As I’m folding up the ticket, an overcorpulent fellow, perhaps 6’5”, sporting a beer in his left hand which is about a foot away from me, looking down his nose at me with contempt, says: "Are you in a rush, sir?"

Now, there’s no correct answer to this question that would have me getting away from this interaction without one of us losing a few teeth.

I choose to defuse, as I learned from 90210, and I say jack squat, staring at the batter until he’s out (while Mr. Barfight sizes me up and down, and while I judge distances between me and him just in case he wants to start something), and head back to my seat, leaving him to mumble racist spew about me to this wingman.

Whatever.

Ball game over! Jays win! Thuh uh uh, Jays win!

Sorry, wrong team announcer.

I walk back to my car, with the crowd, fetch it, and head to my hotel.

There’s a parking lot attached to it. Must be theirs, right? Wrong. It’s only once you enter, and roll all the way to the bottom that they show you a sign saying this isn’t part of the hotel, and anyway, it isn’t a 24-hour lot. How about you put that sign at the entrance, hm?

Upon exiting, I meet:

Drunk #4: Two (allegedly) sober guys are holding their drunk friend between them, as they all try to cross the street in front of my car. The two anchors let go, and Drunkie falls all over my car, conking my rearview mirror and hitting the floor. He pops up, flops around like he’s Weekend at Bernie’s, and continues on his way.

I find the right parking lot, in the back of the hotel, check in, crash, have a good night’s sleep, and…

Day 2:

…I’m out the door for a spirited 5:30 AM run through downtown and Lake Ontario.

Not two blocks into my run, guess who I run into?

Drunk #5: Now this one is the most interesting of all. He’s decked out in a business suit and attache case, all put together properly, but instead of a coffee in his right hand, he’s holding a beer. There are so many possibilities here. He could simply have grabbed the wrong beverage, and didn’t notice yet, or perhaps he’s nervous as hell for an interview, or maybe, just maybe, he’s simply Canadian. I don’t know. You decide.

I run down Yonge St, which is clearly Toronto’s Broadway, past many pretty glass buildings (That’s the new rule for every city on earth: all new buildings must be made of glass), along Lake Ontario, and back to the hotel. 6.6 miles of invigorating fun in the crisp air. Great way to start my day.

Now I’m consistent with saying that life is never a straight line.

I have a card with a credit card stripe that I received from the desk. I’m supposed to swipe it through the machine, and I can get out of the lot, right? Because there’s really only four directions this card can go, right?

Ahahahahahaha! Wrong.

There aren’t four ways to turn a card! No, you have to apply certain pressure in certain directions, and sometimes bend it funny, and today, I also have to re-park, and visit the lobby desk twice before I’m allowed to exit the parking lot.

Because in reality, there are a Rubik’s-Cubesque 54 quintillion combination to how you can swipe a card, and I finally get it right on the 27 quintillionth combination.

Arrrrgh!

Anyway, I’m finally free.

Ooh, black squirrel!

I had back to Bubby’s where I load up for the day. I have breakfast there, and take lunch and dinner to go.

Work

Traffic from hell, but music from heaven. See list above.

My flight is delayed, as are many others, as are many later, and prior, but this is a small airport, and small airports are the best thing in the world, and despite the chaos and disorder, I nevertheless approach the desk, ask if I can get on that one flight that doesn’t seem delayed, and badabing, badaboom, my flight is switched, and I’m outta there. I’m going to have dinner with my family and put my kids to sleep.

Oh cool! MetLife stadium! The field is totally ripped up! Oh wait, they must be having those dirtbike competitions! That’s how close the view is!

I watch the landing gear unfold and land again, because it’s awesome.

Newark Airport is an idiot at receiving you.

·         In Customs, they have one guy directing traffic, one. That’s like a mouse in a field of elephants.
·         They have signs pointing “International Travelers” in a certain direction. Now what exactly *is* an international traveler? Does it mean that I just came from an internation? That I generally travel internationally? How about “foreign”? That’s a much better word.
·         “Use these kiosks” another sign says. Who should use them? Me? Somebody else? National travelers? I’d ask the one guy customs guy, but he’s already the coroner has already declared him dead by trampling.

I get right through, after the border office grunts me ahead. No joy here, but practical ebullience during every other part of my journey. Your job is what you make of it.

Part of the reason my company sends me around so much is because I bring a certain enthusiasm to my vocation. I, in turn, am well received.

I bless you all that you should find joy in everything you do too.

I'm off to Latin America.

I write about stuff, as you can see. I even write books about stuff: http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/mbodekatgmaildotcom, http://tinyurl.com/BodekKindleBooks. Buy them.



Friday, June 09, 2017

Notes from my 1-Day NC Business Trip

Notes from my 1-Day NC Business Trip
By
Martin Bodek

As usual, I arise before dawn and have a hearty breakfast like it’s a fast day.

Abel picks me up in his Uber three minutes before my lawn sprinklers start. Nice timing.

TSA yells at people. That’s what they do. It’s part of the job description.

Now, I always say, life never happens in a straight line. You can’t just go get gas, get the gas, and come back home. Something always has to happen in between.

George Costanza was wrong. There’s no such thing as a show about nothing. Life is everything.

So, here’s what happens: I want to get through security, so I do what I’m told, and everything will be okay, right?

Wrong.

I thought I had this whole process down to a science, but life, John Lennon said, is what happens when you’re making other plans.

TSA loses my shoe.

That’s right, they lose my shoe. All my belongings go into the scanner nicely, then I go through unimpeded, and everything comes through the other side, except for my left shoe.

Here we go.

First thing I do is tell myself to be patient with every idiot I encounter. That’s the fastest way to get through this.

I also look at the clock. I give myself a deadline, after which, if I don’t have my shoe, I’ll just lose the right one too, buy some slippers in the terminal somewhere, and figure the rest out later. I’ve got a plane to catch.

Now I predict what’s going to happen: anyone I ask for help will pass me off to someone else.

That’s exactly what happens.

This is how it goes for me, as I approach TSA ninny #1:

Me: “Excuse me, hi, I’m sorry to trouble you, but it seems my shoe got stuck in the scanner. I’ve got everything else. Can you help me out, please?”

TSA1: “Ah can’t leave mah post! You goan make me leave mah post? I gotta stay right here! You ask that guy there!”

Me: “Excuse me, good day, I’m sorry to bother you, but it seems my shoe got stuck in the scanner. I’ve got everything else. Can you help me out, please?”

TSA2: “Nuh uh, sorry, I can’t leave. Talk to him there.”

Me: “Hello, sorry to trouble you, good morning. My stuff came through the scanner, but it seems my shoe got stuck there. Can you help me out, please?”

TSA3: “Talk to him over there, the guy checking bags.”

Me: “Good day sir, it looks like my shoe got stuck in the scanner. I have everything else with me. Can you help me out, please?”

TSA4: “Wait.”

So I wait.

And I wait.

We’re now moving in on shoe-chuck time.

And TSA4 gets my shoe, plucking and handing it to me with that metal reacher thingy.

You see what I’m saying?

Now I’m going to just go ahead to my gate, right?

Wrong.

Because I’m in the wrong terminal!

Now how in the world did I go and screw this up???

I didn’t. I check the four different methods of confirmations I received. Two have me in Terminal A, and two in Terminal C. To add to the fun, United has planes in both terminals.

Who designs this stuff?

I locate a shuttle that ferries travelers between terminals.

I anticipate I’ll go have to go through security again, maybe lose my other shoe this time.

I’m spared the agony.

The driver of the shuttle bus drives directly under the wing of an airplane en route to our gate. I have to imagine he did that because he’s a moron.

As I board, I hear someone behind me say, “Is there such a thing as an Unknown Crew Member?”

I look aft, and I see a porter with a “Known Crew Member” ID badge.

Ha! Good question!

I don’t even get to finish the magazine crossword puzzle when we start to land. The trip is that short. Then I think, who would I show off to anyway if I finished it?

I’m rotten egg off the plane. Non-membership has its privileges.

I’m in RDU. I love some small airports. Love them. Staff has time to deal with you if you have issues, and everybody is friendly and nice. I’m not in EWR anymore.

I get my car rental, then I realize work is 3.1 miles from the airport. I can run there in 22 minutes. Next time I Uber. Uber is the best.

Work.

Upon leaving for the day, I discover that my 3.1-mile ride results in my gas dropping significantly below the full mark. Seriously now? Someone is cheating.

En route to the car rental place, I encounter no gas stations whatsoever, so I’ll pay the $872.32 fine. Whatever.

I get patted down by security. Always a, ahem, pleasure. The dude begins the encounter by saying, “I have to pat you down.” Nice come-on line. I could have thought of something better.

Cultural faux pas: while waiting at my gate, I overhear the following: “Would passenger please report to gate C15. That’s Charlie 15.”

You do not refer to an Asian as Charlie. You dig? Do I have to do all the sensitivity work around here?

My flight is delayed. Uh oh. The flight after mine is delayed too. Uh oh uh oh. But the flight before mine is delayed too!

“Can I get on that one?”, I ask the nice lady. Yes I can! I love small airports!

As I wait five minutes instead of two hours to board my new plane, they announce that my old plane – and the one after it – are both delayed further. My new, delayed-perfectly plane that’s working out for me? I’m already on, baby. I love it when a plan comes together.

I fly, I land, I Uber, my driver passes wind audibly (not kidding), I’m home in time for dinner, and for kiddy bedtime.

Really, I just replaced my regular train commutes with a couple of planes.

All in a day’s work.


Notes from my 4-Day UK Business Trip

Day 1:

3:45 AM: Rise and shine, slightly later than
Roher Standard Time (vehamayvin yavin) and have an early meal like it’s a fast day.

Bukola is my Uber driver for the morning. He doesn’t smell and gets me there in one piece. That’s worth five stars.

TSA proves, once again, what a fun-loving on-the-same-page bunch they all are. 50% of the scowling, hollering staff yells at you to move forward, whilst the other 50% snarls at you to step back. Which is it? Literally a coin flip, isn’t it? I go wherever the heck I feel going, when I want to. That works out for me this time.

I pass the United customer service desk en route to my plane. Not a fun place to be these days, I presume. Nobody’s being dragged past the desk, so that portends for a good flight, I hope.

My kosher plane meal is nice and cold, as it shouldn’t be.

I watch movies to pass the time:

Allied: ooh, intense, and sexy. I’m talking about Brad Pitt, of course. I met him in person a few years ago (He asked me for directions to The Waldorf); his goodlookingness isn’t normal.

The Magnificent Seven: fun, cool, heartbreaking.

I also beat the whole plane on the in-flight trivia. My last Jeopardy! test was 6/1.

I also continue reading Digital Gold, by Nathaniel Popper because I’m a nascent Bitcoin nerd.

I hate turbulence.

Landed safely in an alternate universe called Heathrow Airport, where everything is described with extra words. Examples: Car park, baggage reclaim, moving stairs. This funny guy is partially right, but the Brits are worse offenders, and I’m available to debate him: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wSw3IWRJa0

I see a BA Airbus A380 on the tarmac, in motion. The largest plane in the world. It is…leviathan.

I realize I left the US before dawn, and landed in the UK after dusk. Wow. A whole day in flight, technically.

Plan A: If early enough in the evening, grab a shuttle bus to Oxford, then grab a cab from the bus depot to the hotel. Too many hops, and too late at night. Scrap that.

Plan B: Grab an Uber from the airport. I can’t figure out how to navigate out of the premises, and find myself a spot from which to be picked up. Scratch that.

Plan C: Grab a taxi and take it straight to the hotel in Oxford. That’s the option I use. You don’t wanna know how much that cost.

I get to the hotel. My room has no fridge. The hotel doesn’t allow it. Great. However, Hermolis has responsibly delivered half of my 3-day order of food, and the hotel was nice enough to place it in a corner of their fridge, accessible to me. Fantastic. It’ll do for my stay. I grab a quick meal from the pile, then Facetime with my family, and it’s lights out.

Day 2:

5:45 AM, rise and shine, greet the day, and see where I actually am. Weather is cool, but, having, just two days ago, run 42 miles in celebration of my 42nd birthday, I’m not up to running just yet. I didn’t even bring my gear. Feeling how I feel – about 90% - I might come to regret that.

I grab my breakfast from the hotel fridge, then load up my lunch and dinner, and I’m off to work, just about a mile away. I walk. It’s lovely.

Turns out I’m in The Shire. Everything is lush and green and wet and aromatic and small and gorgeous.

I panic when I see several cars that kids are apparently driving. Then, I realize, oops, duh, they drive on the right here.

I pass lots and lots of colleges and lots of coffee shops. Nice to see some non-Starbucks ones for a change.

Looks like the median, mode, and mean age of everyone is 20.

Along the way, I find still water (Mineral water and I are not on speaking terms) in a “cooperative,” an alternate term for “grocery.” Who knew?

Work.

I learn that my Plan C option was the right one, as Uber drivers don’t drive from London to Oxford. They stop at the border. Tax reasons or something. Pshew.

Post-work, I’m scheduled for dinner with my mates (Look at me, talking all British already!), but I call ahead to the restaurant to see if I can bring my own meal. Absolutely not. So I have my meal in the office, head over to the restaurant and sip Tiger Beer (All good on isitkosher.uk), while I watch everyone else scarf away until I’m free at last.

It’s 1.5 miles from here to the hotel. I’ll walk it with my flatmates (Okay, seriously, do I even know what a “flat” is?).

I walk past the bus station from which I’ll alight back to London. Turns out, you can’t book a bus if it’s not the day of. I don’t think this is as efficient as they think this is. Whatevs.

I notice that people don’t walk around here with their head in their smartphones. I’m told the folk here in this little town are conditioned this way because the narrow streets demand vigilance, lest you get whacked with a bus mirror. Perhaps, but I just think these people here are extra chill.

We walk past The Eagle and Child, the bar where Tolkien, Lewis, and Carroll drank together, and received inspirations, and noodled over ideas. I did not know that. That is cool. I knew I was in The Shire!

Back at the hotel, I grab another dinner. It’s been hours since my last one.

I check out what’s on the telly (Seriously, how long have I been here?).

Let’s see:
  •          Talk shows with bearded hosts.
  •          Game shows galore. All of them of the quiz variety.
  •          Law & Order all over the place.
  •          BBC1 through 234. Do they not have unique names for channels here?

I settle on nature documentaries, before I Facetime with the fam again and hit the sack.

Day 3:

The weather is gorgeous again, and cool, and this is the stuff I just love to have in my lungs, and I’m at 95%, and really, I should be running, but I don’t have my gear, and this seems to have been a big mistake. I consider going barefoot, but that might be an even bigger mistake. Live and learn. Next time I visit, I probably will not just have run an ultra a few days prior.

I take a different route to work, get a feel for the neighborhood. Pretty and peaceful no matter where I go.

Work.

People like to say “X, y, zed” and “A to zed” a lot here.

The night is young, but no good movies are playing in downtown Oxford proper, and no good shows to see.

I pass The Phoenix House, and according to the posters, Antony & Cleopatra is playing tonight! Ooh! Shakespeare! I’m in!

But wait! It’s simulcast across UK movie houses from another location. Bah. I want the real thing.

Back to the hotel I go.

Know what’s cool about this town? When pedestrians press the button to cross the street, it actually works!

Back at the hotel, hooboy, Hermolis has delivered more food! I eat like a king, catch up on e-mail, flip through the channels, watch more documentaries, and then I find a great movie:

Run Fatboy Run. Anyone ever hear of this? Thoroughly charming, and a good amount of silliness, with a nice dose of gravitas for balance. Check it out.

Facetime, and sleepytime.

Day 4:

I pack up while mumbling and grumbling to myself over my lack of running gear. It’s even gorgeouser today than it has been all during my stay, and I need to breathe this delicious air deep into my lungs. I won’t make this mistake again. My gear will come with me every time.

On my way out, I thank the hotel staff profusely for allowing me free access to their fridge.

I boinkadoinkadoink my luggage for the mile walk to work.

I notice the runners in this town don’t use devices much. No dangly thingies pouring out of ears, no armbands holding phones, no beep-a-bleep-boop. This town is truly chill.

Work.

Done with work. I say my goodbyes and walk over to the bus depot, Facetime with the fam one last time, and it’s London, ho!

The bus rumbles by Alice’s Shop, whose interior, apparently, was the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland! Check it out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice%27s_Shop. I’ve got to stop this bus and have a look! Okay, I’m not that desperate, but I’ve got a growing list of things to see and do when I return to this place. Problem is, like Washington D.C., everything closes at 4 PM. Arrgh.

The Great Hall, from the Harry Potter mythos, is also somewhere ‘round these parts.

I zone out for the trip, admiring the Britty Britishness of the lush countryside, and before I know it, I’m back in Heathrow

Now here’s the interesting thing: the signage for getting you out of the airport completely stinks, but the signage for getting you in and through is fantastic. Supwiddat?

The “TSA” in this place practically commits random acts of lovingkindness. EWR this ain’t.

I get to my gate two hours early, because I’m like that.

I’m sitting comfortably in my seat, when suddenly the world’s largest Guinea-Bissauan, or perhaps Central African Republican, squashes me into the fuselage. Behind us are 30 empty seats, but I don’t want to confuse the crew vis-à-vis my undercooked kosher meal, so I endure. I’m not asking a giant Sierra Leonian to go sit elsewhere.

The Israelites aboard try to put together a mincha minyan before taking off. The operation is shut down by the flight crew, who actually understands what they’re trying to set up. Rescheduled for in-flight.

I get my kosher meal, and my new Djiboutian friend asks me if I paid extra for it.

For this codswallops? I don’t think so.

He’s confused, the poor guy.

I lose myself in my movies. My ribs hurt enough from being squished. Conversation will only exacerbate the issue.

Let’s see, I enjoy:

Jason Bourne: too formulaic at this point. How many more people can he hunt down? Stick to great films like The Martian.

The Shallows: a quick popcorn fright, but the protagonist’s resourcefulness is most entertaining. Good film.

Doctor Strange: fun, and a shtickel different from the usual fare. Tilda Swinton is clever casting, and chews through every scene.

I hate turbulence.

We land. I get my bag fairly quickly, get quickly through passport control, land an Uber lickety split with Paola (her last run of the day, which started at 4 AM. That doesn’t make me so comfortable), and it’s home sweet home in a flash.

Nice way to stick the landing.


Glad to be home. Who needs Facetime when I can have the real thing?