Year in Review (Part 2)

Over the holidays, I received feedback from my father that he was upset at my first attempt at a "year in review" column. So, in my continued attempt to satiate my father's hunger for my writing - I'll write more.

Best Dinner of 2007: This happened before I moved to Washington. I was with my mother in Philadelphia - we tried a new Spanish restaurant near my apartment called Tinto. What a place! Amazing wine, amazing service, amazing food. My mother and I started the meal off with some Spanish cheese and honey. A combination that obviously affected my mother - during Christmas she had various cheeses and honey for appetizers two different nights. It's a restaurant that I'd recommend to EVERYONE that has time for dinner in Philadelphia.

Best Book of 2007: This is an easy one for me. I read Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point over a couple days in June. I had just moved to Washington and had about 10 days before my new job started. Each day I'd hang out at my pool and read Malcom's book. Really great stuff. Very easy to absorb, and totally applicable to everyone's everyday life - much like Tinto, it's something I'd recommend reading to EVERYONE.

Worst Airport: This is a very hard category. I've been to so many awful airports this year....I think I'll break this into a couple different categories.

Worst Airport Late at Night: This is a no-brainer. New Orleans International Airport. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina a tornado hit the airport just a couple weeks later. It hasn't recovered from either. It's a HUGE airport - with the capability of processing thousands of people a day. After the flood, flights were slashed into MSY and after the tornado, the infrastructure was in trouble. Even at peak times during the day, the airport feels empty, vacant, and kinda creepy. Late at night all of those feelings are multiplied. You walk into an airport designed to compete against the largest, busiest in the country, and you find yourself alone, a stranger in a quiet superstructure.

Worst Airport Overall: This is a tie. It goes to RNO & BNA (Reno, NV & Nashville, TN). I hate both airports. Reno is under so much construction/renovation that you feel like you're walking down Chestnut St. in Philadelphia while a new building is being built alongside you. Uncomfortable, crowded, and unnecessarily glitzy - I pine to figure out what the airport's GM thinks on his drive to work each morning. Nashville's airport is different. It's being redesigned as well and I just hope it's for the better. BNA is a skelton of what it used to be. American Airlines used to have significant operations here, but after they pulled out, the airport found itself with about 30 more gates than it needed. Much like New Orleans, it's empty, quiet, docile, and annoying. Security lines are long for no reason, there are hardly any food options once inside security, and the highways around BNA aren't easy to navigate.

Best Domestic Airport: Of the airports I visited this year, this is a hotly contested category. Here's my Top 5:
1. Washingon - National
2. Tri-Cities (TN)
3. Denver, CO
4. Ft. Smith, AR
5. Rapid City, SD
Besides Denver, these airports are all small, efficient, and friendly. After growing up in Philadelphia, the idea of breezing through both check-in and security still gets me excited. At TRI, FSM, RAP, & DCA this is a reality of everyday travel. It's also nice to be offered free wi-fi at these airports (at DCA I access free wi-fi at the Delta Crown Room Club) - it's great to be able to do work prior to getting onto the plane.

Favorite Destination of 2007: Chicago. I'd never really spent time there before November 1st. I had to go there for a conference and despite only being there for one day, really enjoyed everything about the city. The airport (ORD) isn't too fun - but it's an easy cab ride to downtown - and once I was checked into the Westin Michigan Ave, I felt very much at home. Great restaurants, shopping, nightlife, and living opportunities were all close by - hopefully, I'll get the chance to spend more time there and learn more about the Second City.

One last thing - the picture at the top of this column is from Salt Lake City. Taken on my return trip to Washington this past week, it made me really want to hit the slopes....ideally, in Little Cottonwood Canyon.


2007 Travel Year in Review

I wanted to put together a year in review column to document the highs and lows of the past year I've had on the road. Below is the first installment:

Favorite Airline: Delta Airlines - began flying them for the first time this year and have never had a bad experience with them. I was sitting next to a Delta frequent flyer on a flight from CVG-ORD a couple months ago and he characterized the airline in the following way. "With United, Continental, and almost all other domestic airlines", he said, "you have lots of good experiences and lots of bad experiences. But with Delta you just have a continuation of average experiences without all of the drama of the bad ones. It's this consistantcy that I value." Well put.

Favorite Hotel: Westin Memphis Beale Street - Been at this property three times over the course of the year and always love it. It's a brand new property so all of the rooms are fresh and clean. I usually get upgraded there to large suites which is always a plus. I was at the Daily Grill last week and a server stopped by and we began talking about a conversation we'd had the last time I was there a couple weeks before - it was nice being recognized. The one thing that threw me off was their in-room food offerings. On the tv stand is a mini-bar along with a small little container of goodies. If you're like me and like to see what your options are, you may pick up, say, the canister of cashews to see what exactly is inside. Well, even the act of picking up the food out of its resting spot results in your bill automatically being charged. A very sneaky practice.


What's New?

There's something different about walking off a plane in Memphis. It's the smell.

No other airport I've been to comes close to comparing to what faces the millions of passengers that transit through Memphis. It hits you as soon as you leave the plane, the smell of barbeque. It's shocking just how strong the smell is, but it's quite possibly the best welcoming a weary passenger can receive after being on a plane.

The Memphis airport is filled with BBQ shops. Most notably are Corky's and Interstate BBQ. Everytime I'm there, I go to at least one of them. Earlier this week, I stopped by Jim Neely's Interstate BBQ - had a glorious meal of pulled pork and baked beans. Despite not really loving Memphis, it's always nice to get off a plane there because I know a great meal is just yards away.

I've also been surrounded by obnoxious drunk people this week. On my flight from Memphis to New Orleans a 40 year old woman locked herself in the bathroom during taxi - which resulted in us stopping while the flight attendants and her male companion tried to coax her out of the bathroom. It was actually pretty funny - and I had a nice laugh while sipping a gin and tonic up front! Next was my flight from New Orleans to Chicago. In the boarding area, 5 guys showed up completely intoxicated - to the point that they were stumbling around the terminal, yelling and carrying newly purchased Corona's with them. I was almost positive they'd be kicked off the flight or not allowed to board at all - but I failed to remember that I was in New Orleans, and this stuff happens all the time. As people were boarding the plane, about half of them complained to the flight attendant about them - and warned them that, "the drunk college guys are about to get on board!". Oh well, they weren't booted off, and we took off ahead of schedule.

I had the fortune of flying through O'Hare during a snowstorm. Always fun. I sat a terminal bar, having a glass of beer - staring out the window at the deepening snow and thought that my night may just end here, in Chicago. We had 3 gate changes, 3 hours worth of delays, and about 3 inches of snow on the runway during takeoff - all of which contributed to a FUN night at O'Hare. In retrospect, I wish I had just stayed at my cozy terminal bar and enjoyed a couple more Goose Island beers. I'll know better next time.

I'm heading back to Washington tomorrow - a short flight from Knoxville, TN to Washington Dulles. Next week, I'm going to Arkansas - A FULL WEEK THERE. Hitting up the cities of Paragould, Harrison, Ft. Smith (possibly) and of course, Little Rock.

Remember, all those that wander aren't necessarily lost.


Comfortably Numb

I had never listened to Pink Floyd before I met my friend Bob.

While in college, I had the privledge of meeting him. He and I coincidentally grew up together but hadn't seen each other in 13 years - the next thing we knew we lived a couple doors down from one another on the same freshman hallway.

Bob had the unfortune of going to an awful high school - a rival of mine. Luckily, Bob worked hard in high school and was able to escape the abysmal conditions he grew up in. I'm convinced these tough years shaped Bob into the person I grew to know.

Bob knew far more about Pink Floyd than anyone I'd met before or since. We'd sit in one of our rooms, listen to Roger & Syd's lyrics and talk about "what it all meant". If you're familiar with Pink Floyd, you probably know these discussions can last hours - or months actually. I was always happy when Bob and I had these conversations because I wouldn't just learn about the imagery of the poetry of the lyrics, but I'd (as sheepish as it sounds - you like that imagery Bob?) learn something about myself.

Common misconceptions abound about this band. These guys were writing music about what was happening to ordinary people; oppression in Great Britain, capitalistic abuses, the advancement of industry, drug abuse, & the plight of humanity were common themes in their music - ideas that 18 year olds in rural Ohio found ways to relate to and understand. These discussions were, in all seriousness, a very important part of my personal development.

One of my favorite Pink Floyd quotes comes from their "The Wall" CD (not one of my favorites):

"There is no pain you are receding A distant ship, smoke on the horizon. You are only coming through in waves. Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying. When I was a child I had a fever My hands felt just like two balloons. Now I've got that feeling once again I can't explain you would not understand This is not how I am. I have become comfortably numb." - from Comfortably Numb

It was quotes like these that separated Roger Waters/Syd Barrett from the other frontmen of their day. There's no doubt, that bands like The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, & The Grateful Dead all produced profound music - but in my opinion, none of their music reached the high desert plain that Pink Floyd was able to reach. Much of their music was hard at first to digest. But with Bob in the room - forcing me to "listen closer" - I began to understand the genius of the band.

I was on a train from Washington D.C. to Metropark, NJ two days ago, listening to "Comfortably Numb" (the live version) and began to realize that genius and creativity that was a part of Pink Floyd is much harder to find these days.

Realizing that doesn't make me sad - it makes me appreciate all that Pink Floyd has done even more. And remember:

"When the fat old sun in the sky is falling
Summer evenin' birds are calling
Summer's thunder time of year
The sound of music in my ears
Distant bells, new mown grass
Smells so sweet
By the river holding hands
Roll me up and lay me down
And if you sit don't make a sound
Pick your feet up off the ground
And if you hear as the warm night falls
The silver sound from a time so strange
Sing to me, sing to me
When that fat old sun in the sky is falling"
- Fat Old Sun


Chevy Impala's and Aerosmith

I've been in Tennessee a couple times, and every time I've been there I've rented a Chevy Impala and heard Aerosmith on the radio. I like both the Impala (the car, not the agile mammal) and Aerosmith....but it's crazy how often Aerosmith was played over the radio in my Impala!

I haven't heard "Walk that Way" on the radio since, well, I don't think I've EVER heard it on the radio before. Western Tennesse LOVES "Walk that Way". Furthermore, radio stations in Nashville leave a lot to be desired. I don't consider myself a fan of country music, so maybe Nashville and I just aren't meant for one another. But seriously! How many country radio stations can a city of 607,413 have?

Let's put that in contrast to New Orleans. Landed around 9pm and hoped into my Dodge Charger and headed into town. Not sure if I had satellite radio in the car or not, but the channel that was already on played 6 straight Grateful Dead songs! How perfect was this?!??!? I had just left a city that played nothing but country music and had arrived in a city that directly appealed to my bizarre taste of music. The playlist I heard was "grate" too; "Touch of Grey", "Box of Rain", "Samson & Deliah", "Sunshine Daydream", "Sugar Magnolia" & "Attics in my Life".

Perfect start to my trip to New Orleans.


Chicago O'Hare International Airport

Let me offer up some advice. Avoid O'Hare at all cost. I just flew through it, had a 90 minute layover and really didn't like it. It wasn't my first time there, and certainly won't be my last - but I'm determined to find a place somewhere within that monstrosity where I can find some peace and quiet to relax.

The crush of humanity that wanders through the corridors of O'Hare is equally perplexing. Every type of person is found there...so I ask you, where do people like me go? Do they opt for aviation museum? Or, perhaps they get on the next train to downtown Chicago for some food in between flights? Maybe, I need to check out the airport clubs next time. Instead of fighting for a table at the Fox Sports Sky Box (and being asked to move three times in 10 minutes so more people can be sat) I could take a shower at the Red Carpet Club, enjoy a gin and tonic and get some work done.

I think I've got a plan in place now - but please, if you have the pleasure of visiting Chicago in the future, go to Midway....if ORD is printed ANYWHERE near your ticket, bring some ear plugs, blinders, and enough bravado to fight for that table.



Even the trees in Columbus were red last weekend. I headed back to central Ohio for two reasons. First, was because the Ohio State Buckeyes were playing a big game against the Wisconsin Badgers & secondly, to see a good friend (Karthik) and a sworn fantasy sports enemy (Vafa). After being picked up the three of us got food and made the proactive decision to have a quiet Friday night so we could have more fun on Saturday.

Saturday started early and we did what all college football fans do on Saturday morning - immediately turned on College Gameday. We got a cab and headed towards the Horseshoe for some tailgaiting. A sea of red greeted us as we neared the stadium - as both OSU and Wisconsin fans wore their team red colors - making rivals nearly indistinguishable until you were right next to them.

I made the somewhat poor decision to be the only person (probably in all of Columbus) to wear Michigan colors to the stadium area. I just like blue. We met up with some friends and decided to find a bar to get some food and watch the game.

The game was underwhelming as most OSU games are - and I spent most of the time playing pool with Karthik and Vafa. As the night wore on, the blood alcohol level of the collective city rose to alarming heights (as is expected in Columbus during OSU games). Vafa, Karthik and I went to a couple parties throughout the night and finally ended up at a BW3s for some late night wings.

The next day, I got ready to head to Memphis for work - my first time there. All-in-all, it was a fun trip to Columbus - would have preferred that OSU had lost, but I guess I blew all my luck back in Reno.


Stat of the Day

Since beginning to travel for work (October 16, 2007) I have been averaging 1,172 miles through the air each day. If this pace continues, I should reach 300,000 miles flown in 2008.

Getting ready to head to my home-away-from-home National Airport for a weekend trip to Columbus. Pictures & stories to follow.


Reno, NV

After finishing my work in Carson City, I decided to drive to Lake Tahoe and then back to Reno (where I had a room for the night). It was the first time in my life that I drove on a road like US Route 50. It wound its way through the Sierra Nevada Range continually offering amazing vistas and dramatic scenary. There wasn't any traffic either, so the drive was not only beautiful, but also 100% stress free. Everyone should have a similiar experience as I did on this drive.

I eventually reached Incline Village, NV - an upper-class lakeshore community on the northern edge of the Lake. I worked my way through the neighborhoods, past Sierra Nevada College, to the lake itself. Not only was it deadly silent at the Lake, but it was absolutely still...hardly a ripple. Someday I'll have to head back there to get some skiing or camping in - hopefully soon.

I decided to stay at the Reno Hilton which was situated only 7 minutes away from the airport (an ideal location for my early AM departure on Thursday). Of course, I hadn't realized the

Hilton had changed to the Grand Sierra Resort 18 months ago - so here I am, at a totally tacky, glitzy casino in Reno...on Halloween. Perfect. If any place warrants a visit on Halloween, it's the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno.

I decided to play blackjack. I'd only ever played once or twice before - typically either winning or losing $20 - $30 each time. I withdrew $100 from my bank account and decided that I'd play as long as that $100 was still around. Fast forward 3 hours and 3 Bud Lights later, and I find myself with $850 in my pocket. For whatever reason, I did really well.

All in all, Reno was good. Glad to be back home in Washington though - and getting ready for another long week of travel ahead.


The capital of Nevada is.....wait, is it really Carson City?

I think my luck began to change the moment I stepped into the miserable Reno-Tahoe Int'l Airport Tuesday night. Got a nice upgrade to a "turbo-charged" Nissan Altima at the Hertz desk - then the first song I heard on the radio while leaving the airport was the Soulja Boy song. Should I just turn around? Was I pushing my luck already?

Weaved my way from Reno to Carson City - a short 30 minute drive down a seemingly endless dark road. In typical fashion out West, I first saw the lights of Carson City from a distance away but soon enough I pulled into the Hampton Inn & Suites. I've been actually blown away by the quality of the Hampton Inn's I've been staying at. Inexpensive and full of amenities that you don't get at Westin's, Sheraton's, or W's. Maybe it'll be easier if I breakdown the costs: room is $149, free internet, free breakfast, access to gym and pool versus last night at a Westin in Denver - $289 for the room, $10.95 for 24 hours of internet, gym access is $10.95 and breakfast isn't provided.

After getting situated in my room, I threw on my jeans and headed out on the town. Passing some antiquated gems like the "Nugget Casino" and the "Frontier Motel" - with their flashing neon lights - gave me a vision of what Las Vegas used to be. I really loved all the neon signs - some really cool stuff, I'll take some pictures tomorrow hopefully.

It took me about 15 minutes to reach the local Applebee's and I dined on a pretty miserable piece of meat and some overcooked vegetables - a dinner that I'm quickly learning is nearly par for the course on the road. Luckily, the drive home was fantastic.

The local radio station played "Stranglehold" by Ted Nugent and while stopped at a red light, I turned up the music, rolled down the windows and drove nice and slow back to my hotel. Is this what usually happens when people are on the road? Do other people crank up the radio and cruise through alien towns at night too? I guess I'll find out tomorrow when I head to the Biggest Small Town on Earth - Reno.


The First Fortnight

Just wrapped up my first two weeks of work, "on the road" - and I've got one story and a number of pictures to share. I was in Lake Charles, LA getting ready for my first visit at a McDonalds not too far from the hospital. A family walked in, right by me. I was situated by the front door, looking out towards the busy street.

One of the two girls runs out and across the street with the other girl not too far behind her.
"WAIT!!! WE DON'T NEED ANYMORE MONEY!!!" screamed the one sister to the one just feet away from me. At this point I was watching the two of them (considering she was screaming about 5 feet away). Well, the one sister that was across the street, turned, and ran back towards the McDonalds.
Between me and the road was a hedge, and this hedge made it impossible for me to see the girl get hit by the grey sedan, going about 30mph. The only way I could tell she'd been hit was that two flip-flops that she'd been wearing went flying up into the air. Not to make this any more dramatic than it was; but it felt like a scene from a movie.
I dropped my coffee and my precious new Oncology Roundtable 2008 Year Ahead document that I'd been intently studying and ran to her in the street. I got there before anyone else did and she lay motionless, with parts of herself covered in her own blood.
Over the next ten minutes or so, I was panicked. Called 911 but realized I had no idea what the address in this alien town was, luckily enough locals were around that we were able to figure it out. The ambulance was there pretty quickly, and by that time the girl was screaming - in apparent shock. She hit her mother at least once, and wasn't letting anyone get close to her. I suppose in retrospect, her hysterical nature was a good sign that she'd be fine.

My trip to Lake Charles came during my first solo trip for work - I'm attaching a picture I took on Thursday morning from my hotel in Denver.

First Post

This space will be used to tell stories from my travels. A little background is where I guess I'll begin.

I began a new job in Washington, DC in July in health care. A large portion of my time is spent visiting hospitals nationwide to better understand their short- and long-term priorities and assist them as appropriate.

After leaving college 13 of my friends began a regular email dis-list to keep everyone aware of what new things have happened to one another, and apparently, according to NYC artist Anders Johnson and Philadelphia online-marketer extraordinaire Nick Fedor - my endless emails are driving them crazy. Nick suggested started a blog, and 30 minutes later, here we are.

This blog is very raw at this juncture, but should continue to grow and change overtime. In addition to filling in my friends and colleagues about my travels, I also intend on using this space to complain. Traveling all week can become very annoying - do you realize how many novice travelers I have to deal with on a day-to-day basis? Let's just say, I've waited in security lines longer this month than I've spent at my apartment.

At any rate, I hope someone finds this page enjoyable to read.