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September 19th, 2003

I left my heart in an airport hotel

Although I rather enjoy downtown San Francisco, where lately Priceline seems to put me in boutique hotels which suggest to me both (a) people really do read and take inspiration for those quirky "high style" fashion magazines and (b) inherited money still spends money derived from earned money in ways guaranteed not to make more money. But yesterday I determined to stay near the airport, as I just wasn't in the mood to take a late night cab or shuttle or train ride into the city.

The wisdom of this choice bore in upon me when I got caught in a massive thunderstorm at the intersection of Central Expresway and the LBJ Freeway, a "perpetually under construction" array of clogged lanes and girders into tomorrow that reminds one of a clever combination of Fritz Lang's Metropolis, A Gaudi conception of Hell, and an episode of the Jetsons. The rain had nothing to do with any hurricane or tropical storm, but nonetheless caused traffic to nearly camp out on the freeway. I will say for Texas people that they, unlike Californians, are able to drive in inclement weather, as a Texas thunderstorm is a fairly usual event. Because I got my customary late start from the office due to a thousand pending crises, I missed my original flight, which sedately proceeded on via Vegas to SF on time notwithstanding the thunderstorm. I was pleased to get on a successor flight (and may I say that America West has really improved remarkably)through Phoenix, but then we had a delay of over an hour after all but one DFW Aiport runway was closed down. I arrived at my destination not at the 8:30 p.m. planned, but instead at midnight. The Marriott which Priceline found for me proved a welcome short jaunt by shuttle from the terminal. Room service was closed, so I ordered a cheese pizza from a company which apparently determined that I wanted it as late in the dawn hours as possible.

I think that this is a fundamental difference between me and other folks I know. I always feel that the universe is at some great little Italian place eating cioppini made with fresh catch and drinking chianti, while I am in Room 3058 at at chain hotel, savoring delivered pizza from a company with a name like "Mr. Pizzaman", delivered with a huge 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke. As I walked down the hallway to my room, however, I remembered when I thought a Marriott the very height of luxury, whereas now I see it as the sort of "business traveller" hotel I stay in for convenience rather than one of the truly luxurious places where a Ghirardelli chocolate magically appears on the pillow each evening, and the restaurant has a name like "Viva Voce".

The hotel turned out to be right on a bay, and I saw a huge pelican on the water off in the distance, as the early morning sun made a pleasing effect on the horizon. My East Coast opposing counsel advised me that, given the fact that the hurricane did deluge D.C., we'd have to reschedule our seven a.m. call, so I took the BART train down to SF. This was my second time to do so, and it was so pleasant. A nice man talked to me about marketing, a subject about which I once knew nothing but have learned much in the last three years. He spoke it in that argot I recognize as being "business school" speak, where I only speak the "gee, I love to have clients" talk which is much less sophisticated. But I am a person who is mildly fluent in almost any commercial language in the "where may I buy a pain au chocolat?" and "how much does it cost, please"" sense, so I held up my end of the bargain.
He told me that BART was already thinking of cuttting back SFO airport runs due to low ridership, which seemed silly to me, because once the word is out, every tourist will ride BART into town.

I find myself re-reading Garrison Keillor, an author who inspires devotion in some and distaste in others. I do not rave about him nor despise him, but just enjoy a light, good read. His small town tales remind me of my own small town tales, but it seemed to me that my small town was a bit more....colorful than his. Maybe that's part of the point.

I hope my meetings end so that I can get home at a reasonable hour tonight. My gracious friend Gene agreed we might postpone our Oklahoma mountain trip by one week, as I have some work to do (and some rest to get). But I'm eager to hike nonetheless, and eager to get much work done.