Atop Camelback

I’ve enjoyed spending some time in Boise, Idaho, over the last few months.  It reminds me of Columbus in some ways — it’s a growing town with a good foodie scene and a significant college vibe, thanks to Boise State University — but of course it’s different in come ways, too.  One difference in the overall vibe is the foothills (in flat Columbus, we’d call them mountains) that are found very close to the downtown area.

We decided to hike up Camelback, which is only a few blocks from the core downtown area, up 8th Street through a very cool neighborhood.  Once you reach the trail head, you can walk straight up to the Camelback overlook, or vie with the mountain bikers, horseback riders, joggers, and dogwalkers on one of the main trails that fan out into the area.  We took one of the trails first, heading out into the sagebrush and arid scenery, then ended the excursion with the cool Camelback overlook and its nice view of downtown Boise and the Idaho Statehouse dome.

It’s amazing what a little elevation near downtown can do for you.  Of course, I’m not sure that many downtown officeworkers hike up dusty Camelback on their lunch hours.

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In The Delayed Luggage Delivery Waiting Zone

Yesterday I had a plane flight that involved a very tight connection in Minneapolis-St. Paul.  The B.A. Jersey Girl and I made it, thanks to some speed-walking on the rolling lanes and light jogging through an underground tunnel, but unfortunately our bags didn’t.  Instead, they got routed to Detroit, for some reason, and were supposed to make it to Columbus late last night.

So now, I’m in the delayed luggage delivery waiting zone.

When we found out at the Columbus airport that the luggage wouldn’t make it to town until much later, we had a choice:  either have the bags delivered last night, or this morning.  I figured there was no way I wanted to wait up for a delivery that probably wouldn’t happen until well after midnight, so I chose this morning instead.  And because I’ve read about the scourge of Amazon porch pirates and therefore think it’s probably not wise to leave two fully stuffed bags sitting out on the front steps for the entire day, this morning I’m in the delivery waiting zone.

The problem with being in the delivery waiting zone is that the estimates of arrival time are regrettably . . . imprecise.  The websites and 1-800 numbers are nice, and certainly give you a lot of information about the torturous route your bags have followed — in addition to giving you more than ample privacy disclosures — but the reality is that you’re still looking at about a six-hour window, and you’re never quite sure whether your stuff is being successfully delivered until it actually hits your doorstep and you hear the doorbell ring.

Time for another cup of coffee!

 

Voices In The Room

Sometimes I don’t know what American hotel chains are thinking.  Consider this increasingly commonplace hotel scenario.  You check in, get your keycard, lug your bags into the elevator and up to the room, use the key card to access the room, open the door, and . . . .

There are strange voices coming from inside the room.  Murmuring, distinctly human voices, but at a volume where you can’t immediately make out what the heck they are saying.  Then you go into your room and discover that the TV is on, set to a channel where people are talking, and you have to walk over and turn it off.

Why is this the latest trend?  It’s inexplicable.  You used to go into your hotel room and, in many cases, find that the TV has been set to a music channel.  But now the music welcome has been junked, and it’s always a TV channel where people are talking.  Sometimes it’s the channel that carries those long vignette ads for the hotel chain itself, and sometimes its the local NPR station.  But it’s almost always human voices in the background these days.

Why is this so?  I suppose somebody thought that the sound of human voices in the room would make the weary lone traveler feel a little less isolated on his or her trip.  Or maybe they just figure they’ll hit you with a few seconds of free hotel advertising time during the time it takes for you to drop your bags, march over to the TV set, wrestle with the remote, and figure out how to turn the TV off.

This has become standard operating procedure in most hotels, so you’d think I’d be used to it — but I’m not.  Instead, I inevitably think as I open the door — “Hey, have I gone to the wrong room?”

 

Karaoke

Last night I was part of a group that went to a karaoke bar. We got up on stage to sing the Bill Withers’ classic Lean On Me, and of course watched other people perform as we waited our turn. From this limited, never-to-be-repeated exposure to the karaoke world, I’ve reached several conclusions:

1. Most people (including me) can’t sing or dance to save their lives.

2. Most people who enjoy karaoke don’t realize number 1, above, applies to them.

3. I had no idea that growling, headbanger-type songs are popular karaoke fare. It was disturbing enough to realize that some people would pick such offerings to be their songs to perform, but watching them belt out troubling lyrics that scrolled by on the screen upped the disturbing quotient to the nth degree. You want to steer clear of anybody who thinks it’s a good idea to publicly perform those songs.

Pocket Parks (Boise Edition)

I’ve written before about pocket parks — those small, quiet enclaves of green trees and grass and shade carved out from cityscapes that can brighten the lives of the people in the surrounding neighborhood — so I’ve got to call out Boise, Idaho for a pretty cool example of the pocket park concept.

The C.W. Moore park is just a few blocks from the core downtown area of Boise.  It’s a beautiful little park, and it’s got some features you don’t see in most parks.  For one thing, it’s got a functioning water wheel in one corner — and what person taking a break from the hurly-burly of life wouldn’t enjoy watching a slowly moving, mesmerizing water wheel and hearing the sound of the rushing water?  The water wheel is an important touchstone for the city’s history, too, because Boise is located in an arid region and water wheels and water systems helped to make Boise green and habitable.

The park also includes other links to Boise history.  Around the park you will see the name stones and date stones of former Boise schools and buildings — you can see part of the Central School name stone in the photo above — as well as a former building entrance arch, a carriage stone, a locally quarried limestone block, columns and streetlights from Boise’s past, and a building turret.  It’s all a pretty cool way of linking the park to Boise’s past in a tangible and interesting way.  Kudos to the Boise Park Department for taking the pocket park concept to the next level.

Dreaming About Smoking

It’s been more than a quarter century since I quit smoking.  I gave up the nasty habit back in in the early ’90s, when the kids were little, and I haven’t had a cigarette since.

how-to-get-rid-of-cigarette-smokeLast night, however, I had a very vivid dream about smoking.  I was sitting somewhere, among a group of people, lighting a cigarette and taking a deep puff.  I felt the familiar leaden sensation in my chest as I did so and the harsh, acrid taste in my mouth and throat.  Wherever I was, it was clear that I had been chain-smoking cigarette after cigarette.  My dream self was sadly aware that I had previously successfully quit smoking for a long period of time but had started up again for some reason and was now hooked once more.  As I puffed away, I felt tremendous feelings of regret and guilt and shame and embarrassment that I had been so weak and stupid to retreat and would now have to try to quit all over again.  It was an incredibly realistic, powerful dream that startled me awake in the middle of the night.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a prior dream about smoking — at least, not one that I remember.  I have no idea why I would have such a dream now, as I have zero interest in taking up smoking again.  It’s pretty amazing that a habit I ditched more than 25 years could still call up such vivid images.  I suppose it shows that the smoking memories and my prior smoking self are still in my consciousness somewhere, lurking deep below the surface, ready to be tapped during an unconscious moment.

I was very grateful when I awoke and realized it was all a dream and that I remained contentedly smoke-free.  In fact, I can’t think of a recent dream where I’ve been happier and more relieved to find it was only a dream.  If my subconscious, just to be on the safe side, was trying to send me a message that there should be no backsliding, the message was received.

Walking Past The Drive-Thru Line

I’m on the road again, staying in one of those generic hotels that is located in a busy commercial area, right next to a Chick-Fil-A and a Carl’s Jr. restaurant.  It’s one of those places where you walk out of the front door directly into a parking lot for a bunch of other businesses in a strip shopping area.

Let’s just say it’s not exactly a bucolic hotel setting.

But, the hotel location does have the advantage of requiring me to walk past the drive-thru lines of those two fast food emporiums on my way to and from meetings.  It always brings a smile to my face, because hearing the interactions between the customer in the car and the employee working the intercom as I walk by is pretty hilarious.  It makes me think that fast food drive-thru lanes are probably the worst communications systems known to man.  In fact, you could argue that they are consciously designed to avoid effective communication, rather than promote it.

Start with the generic message that you get, asking if you want to get the new menu item the place is featuring, which causes the customer to wonder whether they are talking to a real person or hearing a recording.  Then there’s a long pause, while the customer wonders whether they’re supposed to go ahead with their order or wait.  When the employee finally says go ahead, the flustered customer proceeds with the order, and there’s inevitably one or two questions from the employee that the customer doesn’t understand.

Squawk — “Do you want to Super-size that?”

Squawk — “What?”

Squawk — “DO YOU WANT TO SUPER-SIZE THAT?”

Squawk — “No.”

Squawk — “Would you like to make that a meal?”

Sqauwk — “What?  No.”

And then there’s the awkward pause at the end, where the customer wonders whether the employee is done firing questions and the conversation is finally over and they can just drive ahead and get their food.

We’ve grown accustomed to this kind of stuff in the drive-thru line, but hearing it from a distance makes me wonder whether it wouldn’t be better to just stop, park, and talk directly to a real person when ordering food.