Some of you are saying, "ah, jeez, he's doing it again! He's writing that crap from Orlando!"
Yes. Yes, I am.
This, by common modern notation, is Day 0. Saturday, the day before the real chaos begins. Yes, I know this is being posted on Sunday, which would normally be Day 1, but, well, I was kinda busy yesterday.
The story really starts on Day -1. As of 3pm on Friday, I was told I am once again becoming unemployed. GSA ended funding for my contract job over there, which wasn't unexpected, and the contract company did it in a fairly nice way. Honestly, this frees me up to do things I really want to do and about which I was better-informed. That's all I have to say about that, as Forrest Gump would say.
So, to start with, HIRE ME!
End of self-shilling, at least for now.
One good thing that the layoff did was give me three extra hours to prepare for the trip to Orlando. Lately I've been worried about the VW Passat TDI I've driven for the last five years. One of the front wheel bearings seemed like it was getting grumpy and wanting to be replaced, the exhaust system looks like it belongs on Mike Mulligan's steam shovel, and the interior, to say it simply, is a fuckin' pigsty. But every time I turn that key, that chipped-up diesel fires up and acts like it wants to go somewhere interesting. So at 6:30pm on Friday, loaded with a remarkably minimal collection of belongings, I headed off into the world.
Now, those of you who've read this for a few years know that normally I head straight down I-95 and stop over somewhere in South Carolina on Friday night. Thanks to time constraints and newly-imposed money constraints, I wasn't going to do that, and put a great fleece blanket in the car with me. Also, since trying to go through Friday evening traffic anywhere within 100 miles of Washington, DC is only slightly smarter than lighting your balls on fire with a Zippo, I chose a completely new route down through Virginia, Charlotte and Columbia, South Carolina. I-81 to I-77 to I-26, joining good old I-95 down near Orangeburg, South Carolina. Google Maps said this route was about twelve miles longer than going around DC and straight down 95, but Google Sanity said it would also result in much less wear and tear on my left foot and a much lower tendency to want to punch the crap out of Virginia drivers. I chose it.
In Which I Am A Total Leech
Friday night I got down as far as a town about an hour north of Charlotte, pulled off in a rest area on I-77 and slept for a few hours. I woke up absurdly early and headed south. I appreciate the generous but unintended gift of a free hot breakfast from the Comfort Inn near Charlotte... I figure I've spent an insane amount of money on Comfort Inns in previous years, so they could begrudge me a waffle and some Raisin Bran, OK? I did ask the desk clerk if she had any matches. Some days I even amaze myself with my own sheer gall.
The formerly eight-inch-thick snow cap on the roof of the diesel lasted all the way into South Carolina. It was kinda fun watching drivers behind me dodging the little bits of snow which occasionally blew off the roof at them, since this area had absolutely no snow on the ground and they probably thought it was styrofoam or something. The last of it finally slid down the rear glass near Columbia, South Carolina, and I was officially in The South.
Kudos to Pizza Bella in Ridgeland, South Carolina, just off I-95, for really surprisingly good pizza on a lunch buffet that only cost eight bucks. I loaded up on carbs and caffeine for the second half of the journey, and was certain I'd be a fartin' fool for the next three hours as a result. Be glad you're not ride-sharing with me on these trips. Seriously.
Near Walterboro, South Carolina, the diesel reached a rare milestone: one-third of a million miles. I stopped and took pictures to mark the occasion. Other drivers probably thought I was nuts.
As the day went on, the diesel seemed to run better and better. My worries about the wheel bearing vanished along with whatever noise had led me to think it was going bad. Through South Carolina, Georgia and into north Florida I kept tweaking the cruise control to go faster and faster until I was up around my usual 78mph. The GPS told me I'd get to the Dolphin just about 6:30, and I watched the tweets come in as dozens of other people flew overhead, landed, checked in, and started consuming beer, while I counted down the miles and wondered how much the first operational teleporter might cost some day.
As I passed Palm Coast, Florida, I realized I'd forgotten to get in touch with my old division director from my old job at the Social Security Administration, a guy named Bruce. He and his wife, both long-time SSAers, had retired back in 2007 and now spent most of the winter in Palm Coast, just off I-95. I whipped out the Blackberry, intending to give him a call, and realized I didn't have their number in Florida, so I looked them up online. It was really good to talk to them... if any two people made the right decision about retiring when they could still actually enjoy it, as opposed to spending most of their afternoons going to one doctor or another, they are definitely it. Some veterans of Lotusphere may remember meeting Bruce... he was the first manager I ever brought to Lotusphere and he more than any other SSA manager, understood what the place was and how valuable it was to us all those years. His successors have failed utterly in that respect, which is why the last two years I was there, I paid for Lotusphere out of my own pocket. Boo, hiss.
As GPS predicted, I hit the Dolphin checkin circle just about exactly 24 hours after leaving home. 950 miles later, give or take a few. I still had a few gallons of diesel left! I went straight to speaker checking and ran into Mooney and Garrett (my IamLUG 2009 roommate), who had just come back from the Lotusphere Hog Ride and thus looked like extras from the Altamont security crew in the Rolling Stones' Gimme Shelter, minus the pool cues. After confusing yet another checkin-desk n00b because as always, my badge says The Turtle, I went out to see who was around. I completely forgot the TDI. At the top of the Dolphin escalators, I immediately ran into Mary Beth and Francie, who were off to the Penumbra Group dinner at the increasingly-ancient Fulton's Fish over in Downtown Disney. MBR looked amazing, and Francie was stunning. And she smelled terrific! If you get a chance this week and Francie is wearing that perfume, you have gotta smell this. If I wasn't headed to the brewpub to catch up with the B.A.L.D. crew, I'd have happily followed in her scent wake for the rest of the evening.
At Big River, the crew were loitering out front talking and planning to split into two contingents: those headed back to their rooms to store things and change, and those headed straight over to the annual festivities at ESPN. After much persuasion, we all moved on and got to ESPN, only to find several tables of Sphereians already there.
From what it started as, which was a dessert-and-drinks gathering of the denizens of the old LNotes-L list, this Saturday night party has taken on a life of its own. I barely even promote it any more, yet this year I have to say that at least 75 or 80 different Sphereians were on hand at various times. It was, as one person put it, "like coming home. We're home here." The unstructured nature of the Gonzo Lotusphere Gathering is part of that, I guess. No big formal events, no speakers, no sponsors, no overhead. Come and go as you like, bring newbies, have a beer, share some food, talk shit. It was great.
I was stunned to hear that many Lotusphere veterans were not going to be here this year. Rich Schwartz and Bob Balaban were among the few people who had been to more Lotuspheres than I have (they got to go to Lotusphere 1993; I didn't even know it existed), and neither will be on hand. This really made me thoughtful... I guess we're all going to be 17ers now, and their streaks can resume next year. Ben Langhinrichs has been around the Sphere for several recent years but has not been speaking; he chose not to come down. Rocky Oliver surprised me... who the hell am I gonna sing "Vehicle" with this year, Rock?? Martin Leyrer didn't persuade IBM to let him come, which is the case for a lot of IBMers this year. As I thought about how the Sphere would be different without these guys, I actually teared up a little. Yeah, laugh at me. Fuck you.
Early Evening and Chemical Overload!
Alas, about 11, my phone buzzed. Disneybots had called to remind me to come and move the diesel or they'd have to move it for me, so I put on my rabbitry sweatshirt and jogged the hundreds of yards over to the Dolphin portico, having an asthma attack along the way, for which I snorfled about ten hits off my inhaler. The last thing I wanted was to have to figure out where the station wagon, with all my stuff in it, might end up when left to Disneybots. I got there and moved the car (after persuading the attending Disneybot that yes, it was my car -- "you called me, remember?") and realized that thanks to the massive dose of epinephrine I was jittery as hell and my heart was pounding, so I did what I always do in such situations: I drove around until I was calm again. By that time it didn't make much sense to try to head back to ESPN, which tends to want to throw us out as early as is cost-effective, so I parked the diesel and went in to sleep.
How To Keep Up
If you're not on Twitter, you should be. If you follow no other account, follow @Lotusphere. The deal is, if you mention @Lotusphere, it will retweet it to all of its other followers, thus saving you the hassle of trying to figure out who's interested and who isn't.
My Blackberry 9700 is as great as ever. This was the phone I had to buy this time last year, and it has held up very well. More to the point, the camera has been very active, and tweets of mine that have pictures attached go to plixi.com. To view my photos this week, go to http://plixi.com/the_turtle. This is only the Blackberry/Twitter photos... as I have time, I will also be uploading "good" pictures to my Flickr feed.
Yes, I KNOW there aren't any pictures there yet! You've just read about all the shit I've been busy with the last 36 hours!
There will be a Lotusphere 2011 group on Flickr, or just look for the hashtags.
Right now, I have GOT to get something to eat. Showtime is in 4 hours, 7 minutes.
See you there.
1. Jason01/31/2011 06:14:42 AM
Definitely. Please do keep it up. The writing I mean. Fingers crossed for you on the work front.
2. Tim L01/30/2011 05:20:31 PM
Please keep writing "that crap from Orlando"! For those of us who can't be there in person, it's the next best thing to being there.