Saturday, April 25, 2009

On the road again: Austin, day 5

Spam in a can. That's what some of the Mercury astronauts said they were, and that's what I was today on the plane from DFW to RDU. I hate flying coach. Today, for example, the woman next to me spilled into my space, the woman in front of me leaned back, and I had to work, so I ended up typing into my upended notebook.

If I'm ever fabulously wealthy, I will fly only first class.

Still, the flight was both safe and on time, and now I'm home, so everything worked out well.

I've been quite melancholy lately, and I've also been longing for time in Florence, where on my last visit Sarah and I watched daily this video. Enjoy.

Friday, April 24, 2009

On the road again: Austin, day 4

Today's high point was dinner at Uchi and dessert at Amy's, both with clients who are friends. Executive Chef Tyson Cole had taken the foie gras sushi off the menu, but our server recognized me and offered to speak to him on our behalf. A bit later, Cole arrived at our table with eight lovely pieces of foie gras sushi he had just prepared for us.

You might be thinking that foie gras on sushi rice wouldn't work, but you'd be wrong. Wow, was it great!

The oddest sight of today was in the hotel gym. I and one other fellow, an older gentleman, were walking the treadmills. For the entire half hour I was there, he never opened his eyes. He moved his head back and forth slowly, but his eyes stayed shut. I've never seen anyone walk that long with his eyes closed. He opened them only when he finished, then looked at me, smiled, and left.

Maybe he was living in a great fantasy world. Maybe I should try it.

Of course, given my ability to get lost in my thoughts and mess up on treadmills, maybe not.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

On the road again: Austin, day 3

Via the kindness of some folks with whom my company works, I got to spend the evening at the Dell Diamond ballpark, the home of the AAA team, The Round Rock Express. A group of four of us enjoyed the treat of being "owners for a day," a package that included meeting most of the staff, touring all the places, such as the clubhouse and the production control room, that one normally doesn't get to see, eating in the very nice Intel Club, and sitting on the front row right next to the Express' dugout. The evening was perfect for baseball, and as the sun was setting on a perfect Texas spring day, the sky turned a magical burnished deep blue that made you glad to be in a ballpark and left you wishing your friends and family were there, too.

What particularly struck me about the experience, however, was the genuine love of the Express staff for their jobs. From the general manager down to the part-time interns, everyone loved what they were doing. They knew they were in the customer service business, and they liked it. I can't recall ever seeing a group so uniformly passionate about their jobs. It was a joy to behold.

If you live near Austin, even if you're not a baseball fan (and I should note I am not), I have to recommend taking in a game. The park is beautiful, and at least until the weather turns really hot, you'll find it a delightful way to pass a spring evening.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On the road again: Austin, day 2

Yesterday, J.G. Ballard died, and he and his death have been much on my mind today. I never wanted to write like Ballard, but over the years I always found his work provocative, interesting, and clearly different from everything else. He was, at least from my perspective, a giant in the field of fantastic literature, albeit one who spent his time stomping around outlying hills and valleys where few others bothered to explore.

SF has been losing its elder giants at a fast and scary rate, and I regret their passing.

On the more mundane front, my one real break in a very long day of work was to enjoy dinner at The County Line by the Lake, about which I've written before. Simply getting out of my car there makes me happy. I'd love to be able to come to Austin for a few days just to eat at the great BBQ joints and do the fun stuff, but I don't see that happening anytime soon. I can't complain much, though; my belly is full of BBQ, and I have a nice room bed awaiting me.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

On the road again: Austin, day 1

I'm sick of oversold flights, but they seem to be the norm nowadays. For my flight from RDU to DFW today, for example, I had no pre-assigned seat, and the flight was so oversold that American was offering $300 travel vouchers to anyone who would give up a seat. I was not in a position to take that offer, so I waited and hoped for a place to sit. Eventually, I received a true prize: the last window seat in the plane, in this case seat 32A.

When I sat, the woman on the aisle next to me said, "You're bigger than I am. Would you like to trade?" Her only condition was that I let her out whenever she needed the rest room. I gratefully accepted, and I remain grateful to her for this kindness. I hope this trip to encounter some opportunity to pay it ahead; until I do, I'm operating in a karmic deficit for travel.

After dealing with traffic and checking into the hotel, I basically worked the rest of the day, with a brief pause for dinner. It's going to be a busy week, but if an evening opens up, I may try to catch up with some SF folks in the area--or I may just fall over from exhaustion and sleep. We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Anderson Silva's Vegas act

Last night in Montreal, Anderson Silva, the reigning UFC Middleweight Champion, defended his title against Thales Leites. The fight went the distance--five rounds--and Silva easily dominated the judges' scorecards.

The fans at the event, however, were booing. At my house, most of us were going, "WTF?"

Thales, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt and world champion, knew going into the fight that could not afford to exchange strikes with Silva. He needed to take down Silva and hope to submit the champ. He managed a few take-downs, but Silva wouldn't stay there and always got back to his feet.

Silva, who's renowned as a counter-puncher, needed Leites to attack him. Leites would not.

So, each fighter executed his strategy well, Silva did better at his, and Silva won.

The result was frequently boring. What was fascinating, however, was the way Silva behaved in the final seven or eight minutes of the fight. By that point, he was clearly going to win, and Leites was desperately trying to lure him to the ground. Silva wouldn't go, but he started playing with Leites, at one point karate-chopping Leites' ankle when Leites was on the ground, and a couple of times punching Leites in the thigh.

As MMA fans are wont to do, Kyle and I were discussing this odd behavior; after all, who punches a standing opponent in the thigh? I thought Silva was amusing himself while taking no chances. Kyle had a more extreme view: Silva had transcended fighting and now was doing something new, like a jazz musician riffing entirely for his own benefit.

We both agreed Silva could fight again almost immediately. I said he that at this pace, and given that he sustained zero damage, he could fight next month. Kyle correctly observed that Silva could fight the next night!

We were also bemoaning the lack of 185-pounders who would be a contest for him.

The answer came to Kyle: Silva should host his own daily fight show in Vegas!

Think about it: Anderson Silva's Fight Night! Each night, a different middleweight--and when we run out of them, a person from the live audience, maybe a lucky lottery winner--gets in the octagon with Silva and loses to him. Silva would need to do additional training to stay in shape, because only five rounds of work a day wouldn't be enough, but the draw for him and the UFC and the televising network, at least for the first season, would be huge.

For the second season, we might have to up the ante, maybe let the less experienced fighters bring small clubs into the cage, but this show could have legs.

Anderson Silva, Showtime, and HBO, are you listening? If you need a pair of development executives, Kyle and I are available for a very reasonable fee--and a few points, of course. It would only be fair.

It's good to have friends

and to spend time with them. Tonight, at a belated birthday party I threw, we all ate muffulettas (from Central Grocery, in New Orleans), mac and cheese, salad, and deviled eggs. It was our usual party: no particular activities, just a lot of conversation.

Later, we ate cake (and some of us added ice cream), and I opened way more wonderful presents than any man deserves.

The crowd thinned as we turned to the UFC fights, about which I'll write more later, but that group then consumed ice cream as round two of the dessert marathon.

I have a lot to be thankful for, and I'm not thankful nearly often enough. I appreciate those who tolerate me in their lives, and I appreciate those who buy my books and let me keep being in bookstores.

Thank you, all.


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