To What?


Today marks my One Month Anniversary from when I left Dorchester.  The pup and I crawled into our RAV4 and left unceremoniously on March 28th; and since that day we only drove east for no more than a few miles at a time.  With the layover in Kansas, the time here in Orange County (mostly) is ticking towards the end of the 4th week.  Already I am 10 days past the longest time I have been away from home for a work reason in my career.

Currently, there isn’t an end in sight.

What brought me here was a work assignment, to fill a position that was vacated by an outgoing Quality Manager until such time we  transition a new manager in.  To transition someone in we need to hire them, and to hire them we need to find them, and as yet … that someone hasn’t been found.  Therefore, my indefinite stay is still indefinite.  I knew this assignment was going to be for months, my bet was until the end of June.  My concern (as I voiced so professionally to our HR team) is ‘if it stops being months and starts becoming monthssssssssss’.

In some ways, I am aching to get back to Dorchester.  Life on the road isn’t always easy.  I haven’t been feeling the best the last couple of weeks, and the idea that I am still going to be here for weeks/months to come isn’t helping with that.

Yet the far more depressing question comes up when I start contemplating the end of this assignment:

When I say to myself: “I want to get home.”

I answer with the question:  “To what?”

Seriously — I haven’t lived in Dorchester long enough to really have anything to go back to.  I really haven’t met any friends there, so I am not exactly missed (maybe by a bartender or two).  I have a condo I am only half moved into.  I don’t have any groups or activities I am a part of.  My puppadog is with me.  The things I really miss are things that the hotel lacks – like the NHL network, or a place to get a beer I don’t have to get a taxi to reach.  And heck … I am not locked down to the hotel I am at, I can move in a heartbeat.  At least at my hotel, there is always a place to park.

So, really, if I got told ‘today’ the assignment was done – the only reason why I have to go back is because … well .. that’s the place where I own a condo.

For now though, we chug on.  Wake up, go to work, come back, let the pup do his business, go to bed.  Making do with this assignment in the Los Angeles sun, far away where snow still files and the parking doesn’t exist.   In it’s own way, it is working & living for today, letting tomorrow come when it does.


Oooo, That Smell


It’s a Saturday, a true Saturday.  The first Saturday in nearly two months where I had no plans.  I almost forgot what that was like.  Seems like it has been either a travel day back from someplace for work, or driving umpteen hours, or just heading out with friends for wine tasting.  So, as my week was wrapping up yesterday and the prospect of having no plans came across my desk, I realized that there was something wanted to do that didn’t really need much more than time.

This morning, the pup and I drove out to the beach.

Wait … that is misleading.  For one, it was nearly noon by the time we got there, after him and I argued for a good couple of hours whether I get to sleep in.  Plus, I did the driving, the pup just ran back and forth in the back seat, farting.  And we got to the beach, but didn’t get onto the beach.  We learned this morning that most the beaches were closed for dogs, and the dog beach we found had no empty parking plus six cars waiting to park.

What we did do is take the ride down to the beach.  In some ways, it was the close of the whole ‘cross country’ journey, allowing us finally to see the sea following the drive from sea to shining sea.  Simple ride from the hotel near Fullerton past Anaheim, through Irvine, and then out to Huntington Beach.

Because it was mostly freeway, the windows were up leaving the hotel – again giving the pain of a gassy dog to make his presence known.  When I first got to California, I spent a lot of time with the windows down – just something you do after spending a winter where it’s cold to end up where it’s warm.  But windy freeways is still windy freeways.

The last couple of miles was city streets, and with the pup doing his blowhole impression, the windows went down in a woosh.

And there it was.

I don’t know what it is, but I swear that I used to have some past life with the ocean.  That seasalt in the air hits my senses and I just feel happy.  The wind must be coming onshore, because it would be another 10 minutes before we got to the water, but the way the air filled the cabin seemed to make all that travel worth it, all that driving, all those allergies, all those miles.

Huntington Beach is a decent one.  The downtown area has a bunch of outdoor seating, surf and swim shops, general stores that all roll out to a pier that extends it seems a quarter mile out to sea.

As you get closer, the fish smell, so pungent on the coast, and much more prevalent off the Atlantic hit me.  It’s not off-putting for me like to some, more like nostalgic like the smell of diesel engines off of buses.

We drove the beach for a good hour, heading north towards the edge of the OC, then back through the back roads towards Santa Ana.

The smell of it all had to come to an abrupt end.  A highway once more, the windows up, and Auggie purging the atmosphere with a need to drop a deuce.

So that was the morning, taking in the smells of the sea.  Tonight I will catch some hockey,tomorrow who knows. but today … today was a good day.

The Four Dollar Bottle of Wine


I won’t lie to you.  I am considering pulling up stakes in Dorchester and moving to the Los Angeles suburbs.  After the winter we had in Boston, California looks oh so inviting.  From it’s blue skies, warm temperatures, and ample parking, I can’t help but to picture what life would be like out here.

To be honest, though, it hasn’t been helped by my friends the Creeds.  Auggie and I spent this past weekend with them down with Chadd & Heather (with their pups Bailey & Lola) in Winchester, CA – a distant commute sitting about half way between Los Angeles and San Diego in the Inland Empire – and are adjacent to the Temcula Valley wineries.    They’ve been pressing me to move out there for some time, and only with this job I have now did the option come up.  Of course … I opted for Boston, for some reason.

So what did we do?  Well, what else do you do in wine country .. you drink wine.  Good zinfendels from Napa on Friday.  Chilled whites on the hot Saturday afternoon.  Then a Syrah from Callaway Vineyards that ranks up there with the best bottles of wine I can remember. We ate meals over wine.  We listened to music with wine.  A highlight of the wine tasting was a real nice Riesling — which for you non-wine drinkers, is a very lightly fruity white wine that when chilled is as perfect for a summer day as you can get.  We were at the Lorenzi Cellars, a vineyard started by a successful entrepreneur who keeps the Temecula vineyard open for a hobby. While a tasting is fun to get the flavor of what a winery is selling, if you like something you obviously buy a bottle or two to take with you.  This particular Riesling was nice enough to ask if they had a case of 12 – they in fact had only two remaining.  Now, for a price point, an individual bottle of this wine wouldn’t be available in a liquor store – but if it did, it would run for about $30.  The case they were selling at the end of a season for $99 – but the Creeds happened to have a membership to this winery, meaning they get a 2 for 1 deal.  In other words, these impressive Rieslings were just $4.13 per bottle pre-tax.    That, my friends, is a good find.

But it wasn’t just about buying wine.  Or really about drinking wine.  We drank wine and talked about Boston, about Alaska, about California, about friends, about days gone by, about times just past.  Most of all, like a good wine will do, we talked about wine.  We let it tell us a story, and in turn allowed us to create a few more stories of our own.  I like to think that wine is kept in such big bottles to implore you to share it with others.  When I get to share these wines, I get to share the story about a $4 wine.

And many many stories more.

I’m Here, Now What


For those of you who ONLY follow me through the Bear Feed, I am sorry for not checking in sooner.  The pup and I pulled into our California Hotel on Sunday night 13 hours after starting the day and racking up over the two weekends of driving to be a nice round: 3059.8 miles over 52 hours of driving for an impressive 60 mph average.  When I pulled in, the car was still running on four wheels, and the pup was still walking on four legs.  That being said .. we were tired.  Adjusting to the new time zone, getting in on the new assignment, and dealing with what is clearly a new set of allergies has made the transition a little rough – but all it really does is give me an excuse to not stay up with the Bear Feed.

Well, it gave me an excuse to not do much at all to be honest.

That first night, I didn’t even leave the hotel.  Just wandered to the pantry, bought a bottle of wine, and drank it.

After the first day at the plant on Monday, I came back to the room and watched basketball.

Day two, it was pulling up old YouTube videos and cleaning up after the pooch  & I failed to communicate a need to go outside.

Day three was supposed to be laundry, instead turned into a long nap before going to bed.

So, Day four will need to be laundry (at least enough to get me to the weekend) and doing my taxes … yes, I am going to be sitting in a hotel room, doing taxes.

Now before you start going off on me on all the things I should be doing, there is a plan.

Once I am done with work tomorrow, Auggie and I are heading south to Winchester, where we plan to spend time with the Creeds – old friends of mine from Wichita.  Our plans for the weekend will be completely swung away from what I have done up to this point, specifically … drinking wine, cleaning up after the pooch, and laundry … but not at a hotel, so there’s that.

I’m here for a bit, and maybe that’s my excuse too for not getting out right away.  But I need to anyway.  My hotel is a few blocks away from Anaheim and legitimately in the whole ‘Dark Overlord with Mouse Ears’ territory.  Not to mention, my hotel TV doesn’t cover the channels that will show the NHL playoffs, and for the next two months that ain’t gonna fly with me.  Plus, I am not in Boston, getting to places doesn’t require me to save a parking spot or dig out a car or take some road that I don’t know will get me where I don’t want to go.  So, I am going to get out, do things, and enjoy this.

But for tonight, laundry, taxes.

The Long Short Day


I knew this was going to be the shortest day of driving on this cross-country insanity, and while it was, it sure didn’t feel like it.  For one thing, taking advantage of ‘1/2 price bottles of wine’ at the hotel bar didn’t leave me bright eyed and bushy tailed this morning.  By the time everything was packed up and ready to go, it was nearly 8:00 when I rolled out of town.  I was groggy enough that I had to pull off and take a nap – yeah, road nappies, tucked into a parking lot of a junior high somewhere in one of the panhandles.

The count for the day is 580 miles, clocking the entire trip at 2298.4 (again, I should have driven around for a little bit before parking).  I arrived at 6:30pm local time, which mean it was nearly 12 hours after I left Wichita that my day ended.

The day was just a drain.  Not just because I was tired from last night, but it just was a drain of a drive.  A strong wind coming right at the driver nose of the car caused everyone on the road to get yanked around by small road or wind changes – and a firm hand on the wheel was needed throughout.  400 of the 580 miles today was on US Highway 54 — a sometimes two lane, sometimes 4 lane, sometime something other than that highway – complete with stoplights, merging traffic, and farm equipment.  It’s a well travel road, and I spent much of the day passing, waiting to pass, or try not to die from passing semis.  Portions of the highway were in rough shape, namely the stretch from the Oklahoma-Texas boarder to where I merged with I-90 some 150 miles later.  It was also some of the straightest, flattest road in the country.  This isn’t just a short jaunt across the great plains, it crosses it at a diagonal, meaning hours and hours of widespread flat land.

It caused the cabin to be quite strained.  My pup hasn’t learned that ‘cuddle time’ doesn’t include while daddy is driving.  Like any good dog, Auggie had that great sense of timing.  He’d choose to try to force his way to the front seat over the center arm rest just as I start gunning it to get around a truck … and in doing so knocks the gear shifter into Neutral … and then it becomes a fight to clear him off the dang thing to get control of the car and not get us killed.  Which means, his harness gets strapped tighter, which pisses him off so he mopes and whines out of direct eyesight.  So we both sulk now in the hotel room not quite on speaking terms yet.

Tonight, we are in Albuquerque – I am going to try to get a good night sleep (tough when you are sensitive to altitude and are 5000′ above sea level … where you live).  Early morning, quick pack-up of the car, and hit the road.  The last leg of this madness is short of 800 miles and just long of 11 hours.  This day should be full of interest, that’s for sure.  It’s I-40 west thru Gallup, NM – Winslow, Arizona (such a fine sight to see) – Flagstaff – Needles, CA – finally to Bartsow.  There it’s onto I-15, into the LA Basin, and finding our home for the near future just outside of Disneyland.  Long day, but two mountain ranges, the Colorado River, a few massive deserts, and maybe the pup and I will make up by then.

Salt, Dirt, and the Junior Assistant


Phase Two of the great cross-country drive begins tomorrow.  Here at Wichita plants during a week that can be best described as “over” gave a chance to shake the road off our backs so that the trip can continue.  The 1600 miles to get here will loom as much in the rear mirror as the nearly 1400 miles loom ahead.  It should be an easier run the next couple days, especially tomorrow.  The nine hours planned to go from Wichita to my stop in Albuquerque, NM seems like a breath of fresh air compared to the 14 hours of last Saturday.  With 10-1/2 hours left for the run into Los Angeles, and the two hours of time zones I will pick up along the way, The weather looks so good, it’s questionable if I will see clouds at all from once I leave Wichita through the rest of the run.  it almost seams like I will have time to enjoy the ride – if the ride gives me something to enjoy.

The ‘shorter’ day tomorrow means I won’t have to force myself out of bed first thing like I did last weekend.  I am actually writing this from the hotel bar, where I plan to spend the next few hours killing off a few half priced bottles of wine.  The car isn’t packed, and most of my bags aren’t either – heck, I don’t even know if my laundry is back yet.  When I get up, I’ll have time to get breakfast, fuel up the car, and even get the car washed.

Seriously … wash the car.

So, I mentioned that I drove through snow when leaving Massachusetts last weekend, well, that means I still have salt covering the car.  Last night, a storm came through Wichita, which with it brought half of Kansas’s topsoil washed into the wind and water.  So I have a mix of midwest dirt and east coast salt on a pretty messy car.  The inside is no better, with the mass of dog hair shed from my co-pilot and the trash you would find in anyone’s road trip car.  So that needs to be cleaned up as well.

Speaking of the pup, he’s being quite awesome.  This week, he was actually quite well behaved.  Rather than make him hang out in the hotel the whole time in his little crate (called “Auggie’s Man Cave”) he’s been hanging in the backseat of the car while I worked.  When I had a break, I would come out and visit him … and not just me, others would hang with him too.  One manager at a plant suggested that visiting with Auggie made him get through the week.  I brought him into a plant too, making it the second such plant he’s been in since this job.  Of course, he is well loved by everyone … EVERYONE, and that just makes it easier to keep him around where I work.

For that reason, I took my title for my job and added it to his.  Auggie Nelson now is Bodycote’s Junior Assistant North American Quality Manager.

Dull Tableaux On the Danforth


There’s a song by Barenaked Ladies that, for the twenty years plus that I have known it, challenged me to interpret.  It’s one of those songs that means something different depending on how you come at it.  Well, most their songs are like that but this one in particular … Let me just get to the point. It’s called “Old Apartment” and it tells the story of a guy who visits where he used to live, then breaks in to have a look around simply because “this is where we used to live”.  It mixes the act of breaking in with the nostalgia of what he found:  “Broken Glass, Broke and Hungry, Broken Hearts and Broken Bones.”  It challenges the unnamed (and likely not there) current owner of what they did “Why did you change paint the walls, why did you change the floors, why did you plaster over the hole in the wall — this is where we used to live.”

Today, I drove by a house on North Crestway in Wichita.  The last time I was on Crestway, I was packing up a rental car to head to the airport, to head to Alaska.

This is where I used to live.

Now, I didn’t break in, I didn’t tear the phone out of the wall – and there wasn’t an old neighbor downstairs to make angry by stomping on the floor just for fun.  Heck, I barely slowed the car down as I went by.  I was tempted to stop, talk a little, get to know what it was like to live there now.

That house was my house.  That is where I lived for ten years.  I brewed beer there, lost myself into online gaming, and nearly burnt it down on at least two occasions, maybe three if you count the fried ice cream.  The colors of the house … I chose them, still sporting the Cadet Maroon trim with Khaki to match the pants.  The plants my mom gave me, packed in a diaper to keep the root ball moist, are still about the only thing that blooms in the front garden.  The crappy window shades still hang.  And it seemed like every other house up and down Crestway is what it was back nearly three years ago when I left it.  To quote that same song, “only memories, blending into dull tableaux”.

Well before I bought this old house, I remember having a good discussion on this “Old Apartment” song with Eric Glitzier.  He stood by, at the time, that the song was about a pained man who wants to go back when he was truly happy – back when he lived in that old apartment, complete with its crooked landlord.  “I want them back” he kept repeating.  Not just the dishracks or the moustrap; but the life.  I wasn’t sold — because there is a key turn in the song at the bridge.  It goes: “I know we don’t live here anymore, we bought an old house on the Danforth, She Loves Me and her Body Keeps me Warm, I’m happy yeah”.  It’s blunt, but it comes down to a single point – life is better now than it used to be.

Today, though, I got the rest of it, got what he really wanted by breaking into his old apartment.  Those memories, those fading memories, they start to go grey.  They tend to just blend together.  Ten years become something like a few stories and a bunch of random moments mushed together to just all the same sameness.  “Fading memories blending into dull tableaux”  – and that’s something I would want back.