In the coming months, "D" will be introducing several new systems and to create awareness they’re having several press events. After complaining to my manager that the person who created all the messaging and core content for the services being launched with the systems, should be allowed to go to at least one of the events, he concurred. I’m now sitting in a $369 room ($1,250 regular rate) composing this blog.
The day started early in the morning with my flying JetBlue to J.F.K Airport and sharing a cab with others to the Hotel Mela. Just driving to the hotel was exciting, passing Queens and driving through a tunnel onto Manhattan… seeing all the sight (and places I wanted to visit) then smack dab in the middle of Time Square with screaming billboards, flashing lights, chic restaurants and lounges next to everyday fast food emporiums, towering theaters, ABC studios with streaming banners, cars, taxis, scooters, tour buses, street corners swarming with camera-welding tourists, and New Yorkers just trying to get to their destinations.
Just a block away was the Hotel Mela, which didn’t have our rooms ready. No problem. Four of us headed to Bryant Park Grill for a leisurely lunch under large, deep green umbrellas and tall shade trees. The park reminded me of a Seurat painting with people in small groupings, eating, laying on blankets on the grass, playing games, and enjoying the 70-degree weather on a Sunday afternoon.
After lunch, Pooja, a hip engineer from Dubai and I took the subway to Chinatown. I’m glad she came along because I was in awe of New York and not paying attention to which subway I needed to take. Chinatown was loony. Throngs of people spilled into the streets because the sidewalks were cluttered with tables of knock-off purses and luggage, cheap jewelry, knick-knacks, electronics, DVDs, clothing, and souvenirs.
Several streets featured open air markets for fruits, vegetables, fish, and other perishables. The vendors took pride in their produce, ensuring everything was in rows and putting the bright-colored produce by those with less color. The prices were very cheap, probably owing to having numerous farms in New York, New Jersey (the Garden State) and the surrounding states.
The display of fish was equally impressive with fishmongers standing on the sidewalks offering seasonal soft shell crabs, shrimp of varying sizes, tilapia and carp (some scarcely alive, crammed into plastic bins with barely enough water to cover them), halibut, scallops, clams, and so much more. The fishy smell was very intense. You could smell it half a block away.
Also "scenting" the area was the smell of Chinese food, rancid oil, incenses, flowers, and the odor of hundreds of bodies packed into a small space. Rising up from the cacophony on the street were canyons of tenements. Old and sometimes very ornate buildings with high windows and little balconies, barely large enough to accommodate a chair or two or maybe string up a clothes line. In these buildings lived immigrants from across Europe, including my ancestors from Russia and Austria.
My grandfather told stories of jumping across the roofs of the buildings, peaking in the windows of the neighborhood prostitute and swimming in the Hudson River. His father, a widow, hired housekeepers to watch over his seven daughters and one son. My grandmother, his wife, recalled living in a 5th floor, cold water flat with her five sisters and two brothers. These historical building, musty with the lives of so many people who came to America with hope and determination is now filled with people from China, Korea and other Asian nations.
According to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, between 1863 and 1935, 7,000 tenants lived in the tenement at 97 Orchard Street. At the street-level were shops. Each tenement building in New York, like the one on Orchard Street, was witness to thousands of families and shopkeepers. Multiple these thousands of lives by thousands of tenements buildings through Manhattan – millions of people, most who arrived by boat through Ellis Island with the hoping of living the American dream. And what they got were three, dank rooms in a tenement building with maybe two windows in the back and two in the front. Or perhaps, windows that opened onto an airshaft, where the sounds and smells of your neighbors drifted in on hot summer night.
A few blocks east of Chinatown, is Little Italy. The street was closed for a festival and filled with small café tables and crowds of people enjoying the ambiance. East of Chinatown are the streets of the "Gangs of New York," Bowery and Five Points (Worth, Baxter, Mulberry, Mosco/Park, and Little Water (no longer exists). We walked past this area to see a large monument by the Manhattan Bridge.
We then headed west to Delancy, Canal, Hester, and Houston Streets, in search of authentic bagels and a taste of Jewish heritage. Before leaving for New York, I had looked up information about historical synagogues in the area. However, what we found were streets lined with every imaginable piece of "schlock" that could be sold. One street was sidewalk-to-sidewalk of tables offering leather goods.
It was very disappointing. I hoping to meander into delicatessen and inhale the smells – salty kosher pickles, tangy cheese and succulent meats, fragrant bagels and breads, and pungent soups. One of my goals was to buy a mezuzah to protect our Washington, but there were none to be found.
Tired from traipsing from street-to-street, Pooja recommended we stop for a drink on a shady street. I had a refreshing glass of lemonade with fresh grated ginger. It was a perfect few minutes… I couldn’t believe that I was really in New York, watching the people walk by, seeing the streets where my grandparents once walked, and experiencing the many culture aspects of the city. I also learned about Pooja’s life in Dubai, which was fascinating.
It gets deathly hot in Dubai so everyone stops working and takes a nap between 1 and 4 every afternoon. She told of people dying on the streets from the heat. Because of the three hour break in the middle of the day, she observed that Dubaian seem more relaxed and live longer.
After sitting for a while, we found a subway station and rode the many blocks to our hotel. After getting back, I rested for a while then set out to find theater tickets. Unfortunately, there are few plays to see on Sunday evening; we’d missed the matinees and the early Sunday evening shows were just starting.
Determined to do "something" in the theater district, I bought two tickets for $20 to a comedy show. I was thrilled to learn that Pooja had never been to a comedy show, which featured an improvisational team. While not the best comedy I’ve seen, it was a slice of New York and an opportunity to have a tasty bowl of French onion soup.
Tired and anxious to tell Rich about my day, I returned to my $369 room with two windows that opened onto an airshaft, a king-size bed with six pillows and 600-count Egyptian linens, large tubes of spa shampoo, conditioner and soap, a comfy terry robe, mahogany furniture (including a comfortable desk with Internet connection), a mini refrigerator stocked with every imaginable drink, and a basket full of goodies.
In the basket, was a small sachet, which I thought contained tea bags. After reading the list of contents and associated prices, I discovered it was a "personal packet," two condoms, two breath mints, and tube of lubricate. Okay. How about some cashews or Cheetos!
As readers have probably surmised, I’m flunking out at Microsoft. I’ve applied for around 50 positions on Monster, LinkedIn and the Microsoft site; located several people within Microsoft who were willing to route my resume to various marketing professionals; written to several recruiters on LinkedIn; submitted lengthy answers to questions that recruiters have posed;, and even had a three phone interviews. Strike two.
Knowing I had nothing to lose and perhaps something to gain, I signed up for virtual interview with Microsoft on Second Life. A week before, I created my avatar and started to do the tutorials in preparation for the interview. The evening of the interview, I felt somewhat ready; although, I felt my attire, especially my hair, could have been better along with my navigation skills.
Sure enough, I awkwardly navigated to the island where the interviews were being held and raced up the stairs and took a seat in the conference room before the recruiter. Because you have to type your responses – quickly – it’s easy to make mistakes and what would take seconds to speak, takes minutes to type. Within a few minutes, I set myself up for failure by typing that I’d started my MBA, many years ago. Even though I was able to transition to another subject, the recruiter kept coming back to my MBA.
Nervous and unable to come up with a quick response, I typed a bunch of gibberish. I could hear the recruiter noting, "Next candidate."
Near tears, I ended the interview as gracefully as I could. That evening, I sent a note to the recruiter, elaborating on my answers and providing additional information about my expertise. The next day, she sent what appeared to be a form email asking me to comment on my Second Life interview experience in her blog. I wrote a few humorous paragraphs about it being an enjoyable experience and how I neglected to shake her hand at the end… don’t even know if that’s possible in Second Life. Strike three.
Even worse, I mentioned to a friend the name of my avatar – Puttanesca Capalini. He said the puttanesca means "whore’s pasta." A quick peak at Wikipedia confirmed that my being clever choosing the name of my favorite pasta sauce to meld with the given last name "Capalini" was a dumb idea.
Last weekend, we visited Rich’s parents in Bullhead City, which is on the Arizona side of the Colorado River. On the other shore is Laughlin, Nevada, where we stayed at the fabulous Colorado Belle casino. Built in the early 1980’s, in the shape of a huge riverboat, it features perky red and white decorations, flocked wallpaper, crystal and brass chandeliers, and wall-sized paintings of river scenes with women in long dressed holding parasols and men in straw hats in seersucker suits.
On the first floor was the casino with a grand staircase, leading to the themed restaurants on the second floor, each decorated according to its name – Captain Buffet was nautical, Mississippi Lounge was elegant French Quarter, Mark Twain’s was rustic, Orleans Room reminded me of an old-fashioned ice cream shop, and I don’t remember how the Paddlewheel was decorated.
Downstairs was the Broiler Room, which Rich and I walked through on our last day at the casino. Promoted as Laughlin’s only brewery, it was memorably decorated with huge pipes, charts, instrumentation, riveted walls, and funky equipment as if you were below deck on a ship built by Jules Verne. Woven into the décor was the copper brewing and serving tanks.
Surrounding most of the Colorado Belle was a moat filled with koi fish, varying in size and color. The largest fish must have been two feet in length and according to a sign, weigh fifteen pounds or more. Strategic placed around the moat were fish food dispensers. For a quarter, you could get a handful of food to toss into the moat. The fish would instantly swim to the food, the larger fish pushing the smaller ones out of the water in a swirling mass of shiny orange, yellow, white and black.
On several occasions, we watched a throng of koi swim under a duck and push it out of the water in pursue of fish pellets. The duck would walk across the koi until it found a patch of water then nonchalantly swim away. It was a humorous symbiotic relationship.
In the Colorado River, which abuts the Colorado Belle, you could see large, black carp (koi are also carp) swimming in the clear aquamarine water. Intermittently, a rainbow trout would swim by. It was very enjoyable spending the morning, before the temperature rose above 100-degrees, walking along the river and when necessary, darting into a casino to cool off.
To answer the obvious question, the only slot machines we played were the fish food dispensers. Every quarter you put in paid off… at least for the koi and ducks.
It was a very pleasant few days visiting with Rich’s parents, wandering through the Colorado Belle, seeing the sites around Laughlin and Bullhead City where Rich spent many summer days, and eating way too much at the casino buffets.
On the way to the Las Vegas Airport, we made a quick stop at the Hoover Dam and Boulder City. The latter was constructed during the Great Depression as a "model" city where American people could look for hope for a better future. It was designed to house the workers who built the Hoover Dam and had many strict rules for behavior, including no alcohol. Happily, the fabulous stucco and tile-roofed buildings and house that were built in the city in the early 1930’s have been lovingly maintained and were a delight to see. I love 30’s architecture.
The Hoover Dam… the only way to describe the dam is to string together a handful of adjectives because it’s truly breathtaking, incomprehensible, a testament to man’s determination, and as mighty as a skyscraper. Built between 1931 and 1935, it is 726.4 feet high from foundation rock to the roadway, weighs 6,600,000 tons, and can withstand 45,000 pounds per square foot of water pressure.
Numbers seem abstract until you consider the amount of concrete used to build the dam could be used to create a monument 100 feet square and 2.5 miles high (taller than the Empire State Building) or the concrete could be used to pave a 16-feet wide highway that stretched from San Francisco to New York City!
This afternoon at work, a discussion arose around online grocery shopping. One enthusiastic supporter loved the idea of lounging around the house until the doorbell rang. At which point, he’ throw open the door and see his groceries bagged and lined up on the porch.
I tried to listen objectively, which is nearly impossible for me.
First, I wouldn’t have the patience to scroll through dozens of web pages to find just what I needed. More importantly, I would miss the "thrill of the hunt."
Rich always joins me for grocery shopping. I was once stopped by a woman while shopping; she wondered how I talked my "husband" into helping. The fact is that Rich relishes grocery shopping. When we walk into the store, I hand him a stack of coupons. He eagerly grabs a hand basket. His step quickens.
I usually push a cart through the produce section, slowly contemplating what we’re going to eat for the rest of the week. A deep burgundy eggplant is an excuse to make Moussaka. Japanese eggplants and bell peppers find their way into my cart for green curry. I wonder which lettuce to purchase and mentally note that I need a bag of spinach to add color and maybe a red cabbage. So pretty.
By the time I’ve negotiated down one aisle of the produce sections, Rich has already filled his hand basket and is wanting to unload his finds. Seeing that he’s returned with a bag of poblano peppers, I note that I’ll have to buy some ground turkey meat, tomatillos and onions to stuff them. A bag of avocados means he intends to make guacamole. In which case, I know he’ll soon be heading for the tortilla chip aisle or perhaps glance at the meat case for fajitas meat.
Meanwhile, I head down the second aisle of the produce section in search of tomatoes, string beans, carrots, red bell peppers (if the peppers are big and the price not too high), and perhaps, some squash. Sometimes, I have to backtrack if a dish comes to mind for which I don’t have the ingredients, like fresh okra for gumbo (only if green bell peppers are super cheap) or parsnip for chicken.
Heading out of the produce section after picking up some potatoes and onions (red and white), Rich might be waiting to tell me about some fantastic deal he spotted like buy a package of store-brand hotdogs and get a free loaf of white bread, a six-pack of grape soda, a can of peas, and a bottle of yellow pickle relish. "Yes, great deal," I stammer, "but let’s pass."
He spins around, his basket over his arm, in search of more deals as I mosey past the fish case. Tilapia, I wonder. Seasoned catfish filets look good and are cheap I decide. "I’ll take three large filets," I tell the fishmonger.
I whiz by the meat section, feeling guilt for eating animals. Nevertheless, I usually get ground turkey and pork chops. The turkey goes into sauces, ends up in casseroles or gets stuffed into poblano peppers. Lately, Rich has been snatching up packages of pepper bacon for Saturday morning breakfasts.
It’s now time to wander up and down the aisles and randomly pluck things off the shelves… Campbell’s lentil soup with cactus is a favorite. One can never have too much pasta, especially when it comes in interesting shapes. A bottle of borscht would be a nice treat along with a couple packages of instant Thai soup. Wow, look at all those interesting bottles and cans of enchilada sauce. Need to get some coconut milk for curry and maybe a can of water chestnuts. Capers and anchovies for Puttanesca. And of course, Velveeta (a severe addiction) for grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese when life seems unfair.
Meanwhile, Rich is racing up-and-down the aisles trying to match coupons with products. When his basket gets full, he unloads it into my carts. He’s the hunter. I’m the gatherer.
We usually converge in the pet food aisles. He grabs bird seed. I choose cans of cat food based on my belief system. No beef, lamb or veal. Nothing in gravy. Nothing that could result in "reverse digestion."
The only food purchases that Rich and I actually debate about are in the frozen food section. There are cartons of ice cream to choose and bags of frozen vegetables — peas, string beans, artichokes, Chinese stir-fry vegetables, and other interesting combinations that microwave so nicely. We skip the prepared food and TV dinners.
As we head for the checkout stand, I grab some flowers for a bouquet. Rich considers buying another tube of toothpaste.
As we unload the basket, we talk about what we’re going to cook. And smile as we see what each other has added to the basket. My Velveeta, fresh Mozzarella and buttermilk. Rich’s bacon, package of guacamole mix and cantaloupe. I can’t imagine having this much enjoyment, shopping online.