Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Safely, Softly Home Again...

I have returned from my travels. I was in Queretaro, Mexico. It is about 3 hours by car north on 57 from Mexico City.

Apparently the fates decided that the 22 hour roundtrip to Washington DC on Friday was enough to amuse them because the rest of the trip was fairly smooth sailing, especially for me.

Okay, granted the earliest I'd left work the week prior was 7:30 pm, and I finished breaking my jeep outta parking prison and returned home at 2 am Friday night and was back at work at 7 am on Saturday AND I was back at the airport by 6 am Sunday for the flight out AND the mucus-producing disease that my dear cousin gifted me with returned with a vengence but, all in all, smooth sailing.

Arrived at airport by 6 am, fell asleep in terminal, woke up long enough to board the plane to Charlotte, slept through flight, woke up long enough to leave plane in Charlotte and board plane to Mexico City, slept through flight to Mexico City.

Collected supplier, luggage and lucked into the correct *really freaking long* line at immigration. Got thru immigration with no problem, met driver, took off for Queretaro. I gotta say, I thought I was a nutso driver. Holy crap! It took the rest of the drive to remove my fingernails from the seats after careening thru Mexico City. Arrived in Queretaro, checked into hotel, went to fabulous restaurant (El Goucho, something like that) for dinner - it was Argentinian and they had delicious steak. Yum! And a lot of tequila.

Boring work stuff all freakin' day (with a time out for lunch at a chain restaurent called 'Wings' which didn't suck), back to hotel, chased a pretty blue hummingbird around with the camera for an hour, then to dinner at Chucho de Rotto - which was even better than the first restaurant. I tried the cactus salad (it kinda tastes like green pepper) and an appetizer of goat (YUCK! Goats do not equal food.) Then the main course was 'chicken carolina.' OMG. It was so good - a stuffed (with cheese, squash flowers and some other stuff) chicken breast served with veggies, rice and a yummy sauce. This was served with lots of tequila, some of it in the form of margaritas. This is a possible explaination for me forgetting how to turn off the flash on the camera and having all of the pictures I took of the beautiful, very historic, downtown area turn out blurry (neat trick with an automated digital camera) and over-exposed. Maybe.

More boring work stuff all freakin' day (except for a yummy lunch at a really cool restaurant, complete with tequila), dinner at the hotel and an uneventful evening, except for another humiliating defeat at the hands (wings?) of the hummingbird. Also, funny black birds with large tails proved quick only at eluding my picture-taking. I begin to sense a conspiracy.

All day trapped doing work stuff. Brief appearance of hummingbird at window - the same one, now taunting me?? Then a large group of us returned to Chucho de Rotto to eat and I was very adventurous in trying some ant egg dish (Ugh - crunchy. Very crunchy. Tasted kinda green.) and a ceasear salad that was prepared at the table (mash the little fish in a wooden bowl, add garlic, oil, an egg yolk, etc, beat 'till your arm falls off then individually stir leaves of lettuce in dressing). Here's the awful thing - I prefer the taste of the artificial ceasear dressing. Foodies around the world are cursing my name right now. I had the chicken carolina again. Yum! And 3 margaritas and I don't even remember how many drinks of straight tequila. Returning to the hotel is kind of a blur, but I think a taxi was involved.

Wrap up of boring work stuff. Then me starring in my own reality show wherein I am turned loose in the streets of downtown Queretaro with $US40 worth of pesos (around $480), 45 minutes to shop, a bunch of trinkets to buy and no grasp of the native language. LOL - not surprising to those who know me, I managed to outshop even the Spanish speakers in our group and successfully procur everything on my list (including a lovely carved wooden owl, a tooled leather covered wooden box, a nifty crystal, postcards to mail, mini-postcards to make up for my camera disability, silver jewelry (there're mines nearby) including earrings, necklaces and a bracelet, and a cute frog magnet, plus some other stuff - all from different stalls/stores). It was fun. I love a challenge. Then we went to a really, really cool restaurant located in what used to be a family hacienda. It was just gorgeous, but I don't remember the name. The food was good too.

The driver picked us up at 7:00 am, and we were on our way back to Mexico City to the airport. I got home around 10:30 pm. Then I slept all weekend. I've figured out how to get the pictures off the camera and onto the computer, so one of these days I'll share the picture or two that actually kinda turned out.

What I Learned About Mexico:
* They don't think about tequila the way I always have. I've always considered it a shot. They sip it, with a tasty little V8, tomato beverage called sangrita.

* It takes FOREVER to eat in Mexico. I have things to do. Feed me and let's move on. Lunch took 2 hours. Dinner took at least 4 hours. It drove me freaking nuts.

* They apparently have no rules of the road, except survival of the bravest. No one stops for stop signs. They slow down for lights IF there's already traffic in the intersection, lane lines are for losers and if your car isn't shaking from the stain, you aren't going fast enough. Just to add to the adventure, every now and then they have installed speed bumps. These things are over a foot high, a couple of feet wide with a dip in the middle and are not painted or marked in any way. You just need to know that they are there. And if you hit one going faster than 5 km/hr or so, you'd better kiss your ass goodbye 'cause it's over.

* You cannot judge Mexico by border towns or even resort towns. There is no comparison. Queretaro is beautiful and I yearn for a week or so of free time to explore at will.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Adventures in Traveling...

Today's lesson, kids, is this: Don't procrastinate. Get your passport NOW 'cause you just never know when your company is going to up and demand that you travel to Mexico to visit a supplier... in a week.

I've had all of the paperwork filled out for MONTHS. I did not have my birth certificate until last week, and I didn't get the pictures taken until I was home at Easter. But guess what I did yesterday? Yup. I drove to Washington DC, which is the location of the closest regional passport office and I spent the day getting my passport.

Aye carumba! I love my Jeep Cherokee, but it gets lousy gas mileage and it already has 104k miles, so I rented a car on Thursday. I now live in a tiny town. It does have a regional airport, and that is where the only car rental places are located. (This is important later.)

After managing to haul my carcass outta bed, I was on the road by 4:30 am. The drive wasn't bad. Okay, so most of it was through a torrential downpour, but it still only took 6 hours. It was easier than I expected in large part because in addition to Mapquest directions, I went to AAA.com and printed a TripTik as well. It took FOREVER to print but the maps were SO much better - it actually gives road names and everything! The passport place has a parking deck in the same building, which made things easier so I was through security and standing in the first line at 10:30 am.

At 11:30, my turn came around and I handed over my compulsively organized packet o'required information: birth certificate, 2 acceptable pictures, application form, itinerary to prove that I needed to leave the country on Sunday, and driver's license and the nice man behind the thick window gave me a slip of paper with my appointment number on it. Have you ever seen Beetle Juice- at the end where he's waiting in line and has some huge number and they're calling, like, 5? Well, I now have an all new appreciation for that. An hour after that, my number came up and I scurried over to another really thick window and handed over the packet plus the credit card to pay $157 for expedited service. The guy stamped some things, and had me sign some things and then handed me a receipt and told me to be back in the building before 3:00 'cause that's when they closed the doors.

I spent a couple of hours wandering around Washington DC. You know, it's a beautiful city, very architecturally interesting. I found a couple of really nifty stores and quite enjoyed myself. At the Chocolate Moose, I found this, which I HAD to have. All the holy grilled cheese samiches I can eat from now on! Eat your heart out, Golden Palace Casino! And I found a Borders. Oh, how I miss thee, temple of crisp new books! Then I scarfed down food and hustled through the doors at 2:55.

And that brings us to the next chance to wait in a really long line - to hand in the receipt, which apparently tells them that I'm in-house and waiting to pick up the passport. And then I waited. For a couple more hours. Then they called my name and I picked up the passport, checked to make sure it was right and scooted outta there... and right into rush hour traffic. Yay.

The drive home took a bit longer than I expected and I went straight to the airport to return the rental car... only to find that the airport was closed. Totally dark, not a soul around. I didn't know that airports did, in fact, ever close. You learn something new every day. So the most exciting part of my day was at one this morning, breaking my Jeep out of the long-term parking. I hope there aren't cameras there, 'cause I had to go bouncing over the curb, the sidewalk and some grass to escape.

And then I fell into bed around 2am, and I'm sleepy. *yawn*

I leave for Mexico tomorrow, and (hopefully) return on Friday. I'm sure my adventures will be many and varied. Have a great weekend!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Stupid Work.

I'm really only awake and conscious right now because I had to go into work today. Blech. My stupid problem child supplier screwed up AGAIN and had to send 3 people to our facility first thing to rework a bunch of parts so they didn't shut down our production.

After I left work, I stopped at home to pick up library books, and I took the opportunity to maul my furballs so I'm totally covered in cat hair. It's a good look for me. Well, at least it's one I'm used to anyway.

I think I'll go take a nap - nothing exciting here, I'm afraid!

Monday, May 07, 2007

We Interrupt This Program...

Some day soon, I'll write about the hilarious antics of the furballs and their adventures in moving. And I'll post about my adventures at my cousin's wedding (the groom wore a purple zoot suit, and was attacked by shrubberies). And I'll whine and moan about the job.

Today though that's on hold. It's on hold while I curl up in a corner and rock and wish that my parents were close enough for me to hug. Right now I don't want them leaving the house, much less undertaking a road trip to come visit me. I don't want them leaving the cotton batting that I'd really like to wrap them in. I've been off living life in the real world, and it's been bumpy. My best friend's dad has been having serious hello-nursing-home-with-restraints health problems. My aunt had surgery on her cancerous kidneys. My brother split with his girlfriend of 2 years. And I make it back to blog-land, and all hell's breaking loose here too.

First, Sharfa lost her dad. Yeah, she knew it was probably coming. So what? Still sucks beyond words. But what really knocked me over, dropped me for the count, was MM's loss. Oh god, oh god, oh god. To have everything poppin' up daisies one minutes and then the next... gone.

I've got some baggage going on here that really makes this resonate for me. After 45 years, Dad is retiring from the really big tire company. This, even more than the grey hair and the aches and pains, has made me have to admit to myself that he is aging. And I gotta say that he is aging more gracefully than I'm accepting. So anything that makes me look at parental mortality right now hits a pretty big bruise.

And the other thing freaking me out is that I know that stretch of highway. I know it very well. I drove it every time I headed for home, and I had a couple of narrow escapes along the way. So seeing that was a shiver down the spine.

As much as it pains me, I know that I have no idea. Because I can call my parents and talk to them and they'll make it better or try to. So I don't know what he's going through, the pain that his whole family is experiencing. It's like a back injury, I think. Yeah, it gets better - with lots of time. But you're never all the way back to normal and you never know when you're going to turn or twist the wrong way and send a jolt of agony from your toes up through the top of your skull. So I'm sorry, MM, for your loss. I'd help if I could.


There's another thing stuck in my craw too. I can find things. I've always been able to - it's a gift. With the introduction of the internet, there's very little that I can't track down in fairly short order. When MM posted about his Japanese sex book, I found him. Nothing like an image search if you know where to look. And I looked at the squiggly lines on the page, and I looked at the "translate this page" button... and I didn't. I closed the window and surfed away. Because I consider him a friend, though one I've never met who wouldn't know me from a hole in the ground. I'm invested in his life, in the stories he choses to share. And if my friend wants to tell me something, I'll listen. If it's none of my business, I'll walk away.

So him having to deal with being outed on top of everything else just fries my bacon. And the worst is that it's going to happen from people who also consider him a friend. Please, don't post links to articles about the accident. Or the obituaries. Don't mention names. Don't sign guest books. DO NOT show up for calling hours or funerals. As a friend, the best thing you can do is post a comment on his blog and then leave him alone.

Yes, I know it's with good intentions. And he really doesn't care now. But things on the internet last longer than you'd think. I know because I find them. And every link posted and shared and every comment on a guestbook will be there, waiting for someone to stumble across, like a little timebomb. And in time, when things are better - or at least, not as awful - I think he'll care. A lot. And I really don't want him to leave us for his own good. Please, just back away slowly and let him, and his, just be.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Settling in...

Good heavens, time does fly. I'm still computer free, and depending on the library for most online access. And man, does THAT suck. There are some strange people hanging out here, let me tell you. Yeah, I'm probably one of them.

I've moved into the HUGE house that I'm renting. I pitied my tasty-looking movers this time. Just wait 'til I move out of this place, 'cause I've already added furniture and I've barely started.

As I'm now about half an hour from the coast, I'm even more of a vacation destination than I was in Chicago. So I'm in the market for several sleeper sofas, since I will have housefuls of people beginning soon.

Crap. Library closing. Gotta go! More later.