continuing As I was picking myself up off the shooter’s shack floor, I glanced over to the TV. The ballplayers were all wandering around the field, looking skyward. Evidently, there was this hellacious explosion…even the television sports commentators were speculating as to what happened. Whoops. I looked out into the quarry. The wall that I had charged had receded some 75 feet. There was rather a large amount of shattered, blasted dolomitic limestone now in the quarry. Enough, I found out later, for a full month’s worth of orders. We never did find the blasting mats. I think they sort of evaporated. Luckily, the quarry is essentially an open amphitheater in plan view; basically a big hole in the ground with vertical limestone walls. The shockwave of the blast that didn’t spend itself shattering the limestone into which it was housed, blew out laterally, hit the opposite quarry wall, rebounded, and then dispersed, rather energetically, vertically upward. I set off car alarms for a 20 block radius. There were no broken home windows, as the lion’s share of the shock wave was redirected upward. Good thing there were no low flying zeppelins or dirigibles in the area... I waited the requisite time to allow for any loafers. There were none, so I jumped into the nearest wheel loader and began clearing the quarry floor. Hell, I had to so I could open the front gate. As I was clearing the floor, making pile number eight of the loose rock I had liberated, I heard the characteristic whoop-whoop of emergency vehicles. I parked the wheel loader, opened the front gate, and raised the green flag. That was enough blasting for one day. A few minutes later, three police cars zoom into the site. Two were local city cops, and one was a state trooper. “Hi, guys!” I waved, “Nice day, innit?” “Doctor Rock! We should have known.” One of the local boys groaned. “Hey, I did call you beforehand, as per procedure,” I said. Polack the cop walks up, just knowing I was responsible. “Yeah, but we didn’t figure on you terrorizing the entire city.” “Polack! How goes it?” I asked. The other local cop and the state trooper look to Polack, “You know this maniac?” “Oh, hell yeah. For years. Don’t worry, the good doctor is mostly harmless.” He chuckles. “Damn. OK. I guess everything’s OK. Just no more shooting today, please, Doctor. It’s going to take hours to calm everyone down.” He laments. “Yes, sir. I’m done for the day.” I reply, snickering slightly. The one local and state trooper depart, shaking their heads in amazement. This left Polack to follow me over to the shooter’s shack to mooch a cigar and whatever else he can find. “Jesus Hula-Dancing Christ, Rock. What the hell was that? I was all the way out in Whitewatosa and heard you.” He asks as he sneakily snakes a smoke out of my case. “Just some common chemicals in the proper proportions.” I snicker. “Which were?” he asks. I go in the back of the shed and toss him an empty container of one of the parts of the binaries I used. He catches it, reads the label, and drops it like a live grenade. “Binaries? Fuck! Like what you used at the tower?” he asks. “Yep. I used just a little more.” I reply. “Little more? Damn, as I said, we’ve been briefed on the stuff. This shit’s nasty.” He shakes his head. “Yeah. Fun, too.” I reply. Polack grabs a Sprechler’s Cream Soda out of the fridge as I opt for a cold Cream Ale and shot of potato juice. Hell, I was done for the day, so… We sit around and have a chat, just shooting the shit, as it were. Manly topics, so the conversation eventually steered over to guns. “Hey!” Polack remembers, “That’s right! You fucking owe me. Let me borrow that fucking cannon you carry. I want to show the chief a thing or two.” “Yeah, that’s right”, I agree, “When do you need it?” “This Friday, after shift. It’s the monthly qualifiers for us.” He notes. “Are pyromaniacs allowed in?” I ask. “To observe? Sure. To shoot? Nope. Insurance regulations.” He says. “What time?” I continue. “1800 hours.” He tells me. “I’ll be there. I’ll bring my gun and an assortment of loads. Hey, this could be fun!” I evilly smile. “Doctor. You’re doing that thing again. You’re grinnin’ like a shithouse rat. You know how much that scares me. Stop it.” He pleads. “No worries. Friday at 1800 hours.” I reply, grinning. Polack slurps down his Sprechlers, snitches another stogie, and squeals out of the quarry in a cloud of dense dolomitic dust. I arrive back at our flat, after stopping for two frozen custard Turtle Sundaes, to go. I give one to an appreciative wife and I ask her about her day. “Oh, went shopping with Oma. Got the cutest shoes, and a new purse, and…oh well, never mind. You’ll see.” Between bites of Turtle Sundae, she asks how my day went. “Oh, my dear. I had a real blast.” I replied, not lying in the least. Monday, after my first classes, I’m back in the faculty lounge, savoring a Greenland Coffee. There was the usual instructor chatter when Dean Vermiculari walks in. “Good morning, Dean!” I say. “Care for a sit-down and a coffee?” “Good morning, Doctor Rock. Yes, please to both.” He replies. I fix us both a fresh Greenland Coffee and return to our table. I hand him one and sit down to savor my soupçon. “How was your weekend?” I ask the Dean of the College. “Oh, very nice. Had a fine time catching some perch and crappie out on Lake Genever. I see you had a victorious weekend as well. Twice.” He smiles. “Twice?” I asked. “Well, your handling of the tower demolition made all the papers. Very, very well done, Doctor. I congratulate you.” He smiles. “Thank you, Dean. That means a lot. Just doing what I can with what I’ve got. But twice?” I replied. “It wasn’t front-page news, but I saw there was some, well, let us just say, ‘energetic activity’ out at the Silurian reef limestone quarry yesterday.” He grinned. “Oh, yes. I had a job to do and well, as I always say: ‘Nothing succeeds like excess.” I smile back. “Quite. This beverage you’ve created is really rather extraordinary, Doctor. Again, I thank you.” He tips his mug my direction in the age-old Midwestern salute. “It’s a little recipe I picked up on my last expedition to the northlands. I grew rather fond of the concoction.” I replied. “Ah, I see. Marvelous.” He smiles. “Thank you, Dean. High praise indeed.” I reply. “Which leads me to…ah, Doctor Rock. I have another favor to impose upon you.” He says, all serious. “Yes, Dean? How can I be of service?” I ask. “We, as you no doubt know, have many, many fine extractive mineral company connections. We actually receive quite a large amount of funding and endowments from them. They recruit here extensively for our young geoscientists. Now, since Dr. Pataariki has left for industry himself, I would like to appoint you as the College of Natural Sciences corporate liaison.” He explains. “Indeed?” I replied, too stunned for words for once. “Yes, indeed.” He continues, “It will require travel, mostly domestic, and delivering symposia at various companies on differing extractive geological subjects. You will also serve as host and university coordinator when they are present on recruiting tours. There will, of course, be additional remuneration to accompany the added responsibilities.” I slurped my coffee, thinking furiously. “Could I please first discuss it with my wife before I answer?” I ask. “Oh, Doctor. Of course, of course. Take your time. I will not require a reply until… tomorrow.” He smiles, finishes his coffee, thanks me again, and toddles out. “Yow, Es!” I exclaim, “This is one hell of an opportunity. It’s never before been offered to a junior professor. This will cement my tenure-track. It’s going to be a bitch with time, though. What do you think I should do?” “Well, Rock, honey, I think you should do…” Es begins. “No! None of that ‘do what you think is best’ stuff. I want your own thoughts, just like when I decided to go after my doctorate.” I explained. “OK, then.” Esme looks all serious like she’s going to deliver a bipartisan political speech. “Yes.” She says, firmly “That’s it?” I ask. “Yep. You asked I answered. We’ll make it work. We always do. You can’t let the Dean down. You will accept tomorrow without fear or qualms of your wife’s hesitations, of which I harbor none.” Esme proclaims. “Did I ever tell you of the myriad reasons I love you so?” I ask. The next morning I meet with Dean Vermiculari. He’s pleased that I accept and hands over to me the charter. Then the lists of company representatives, their contact information, and some other secret stuff that I can’t divulge right yet. A raft of oil companies will be coming in the late spring semester, so I need to contact each and every one to solidify dates, times and positions for which they’re recruiting. But that’s for then, I have something more proximal for now. I have a Friday appointment with Polack the cop at the town police shooting range. I arrive spot on time with my Casull .454 Magnum pistol, in its carry bag, along with a small duffel crammed with Pyrodex, Tannerite, and selection of specialty loads I had Herman the German, the inveterate gunsmith, create. Herman the German, his actual sobriquet, was this incredible gunsmith, craftsman, and all-around artillery specialist. Have any sort of problem with a rifle, shotgun, or pistol? See Herman. Gun holding too high? See Herman. Barrel warped? See Herman. Need solid gold projectiles for a certain one-off job? See Herman. Herman the German can sort it out. Just never ask him: “How?” “Ach! I’ve lived so long to learn, and you want it free? I’ll fix it, you pay, but I am only one knowing how!” Herman was a cranky old Kraut, and has lived here for as long as anyone can remember. Even my Grandfather had deferred to Herman when he had some particularly delicate machining operation that need special attention and was unique. As far as anyone knew, Herman had no family, but was never at a loss for friends. He was one of the most popular, and well known, but still oddly really unknown, kind of mysterious, old bastards in the entire community. Herman the German liked me because I could obtain for him certain high-energy things he couldn’t. All were entirely legal, but some were sort of out there in the gray zone. He also liked that I was educated, as he held education in the highest esteem. He also liked that I was of German extraction myself. I often made it a point to drop by with odd and unusual high-octane potables while never expecting anything in return other than a story or a shared cigar. Herman created some special loads for my .454 Magnum, which he prized. “I like your gun, Doctor Rock, it is so big! I can still see well enough to build things for it.” He told me one day over cheroots and Schnapps. Herman was a character to be certain. It must have been the pixie in him to dream up some of the specialty rounds he created for me to share with the local constabulary. He lived out in the county by himself in an old farmhouse. He had a full machine shop in his basement, complete with forge, metal handling equipment, and a firing test range. He handed back my .454, rather solemnly. “Doctor, I am afraid to say I couldn’t test all the special rounds I’ve created for you. I need to patch the hole in the cinder blocks in the downstairs range. Your gun punched right through the back…” he apologized. Now, Herman does all sorts of work on the local’s deer rifles, the police’s ordinance and has even worked some with the Baja Canada National Guard. Some of the little novelties he’s dreamed up for me are the first to escape his homemade basement test range. I felt oddly honored. After proving who I was to the nice range officer, I looked around trying to find Polack. “It’s 1550. Where the hell is Polack? I wondered. “Rock! Over here.” Polack calls to me. He motions me outside to the police department’s tactical outdoor range. I had thought all along he was referring to the indoors police target range. This might pose some problems. The tactical range was a series of clapboard shacks, all setup and designed to represent some downtrodden urban inter-city landscape. There were a couple of junked cars, broken sidewalks, storefronts, houses, bus stops…in short, all things necessary to replicate the seediest sections of a settlement where malefactors live and breed. The cops all run around this range, shooting at bad guy pop-up cut-outs and avoid the not-bad-guy pop-up cut-outs. They’ve got music blaring, firecrackers going off, all trying to re-create a shady deeply urban environment. Points are awarded by the accuracy of fire on the run, time to maneuver the course, and the ability of not gunning down innocent bystanders. It is not the best place to test a .454 Cusall. This hand cannon recoils like a fundamentalist Christian being solicited for donations to Anton LaVey, shoots flames and incandescent gasses like Smaug after a hard night of drinking and a stop at the Taco Bell buffet, is louder than a dime-store Karen demanding to see a Manager, and more powerful than a Ghost Pepper suppository. To quote Joe Piscopo: “It shoots through schools.” Especially faux-schools made of plywood. A .32 or .38 cop special is the correct weapon here; even a 9mm is a little heavy. Enough power to make a serious dent, easy on control, light on the recoil…a good tactical weapon. But, nothing succeeds like excess. Polack’s Chief is running around, capping off his ‘big ol’ .44 Magnum, and making the valley echo. He punches considerable holes in the pop-up cut-outs, but has such a hard time handling the recoil, his score is barely passable. Polack runs his test with his standard 9mm sidearm and qualifies easily. However, he’s nowhere near done with his Chief yet. I suggest to Polack we have a shoot-off. And since a .44 Magnum bullet ‘is so close to a .454 Magnum’, which it isn’t…the .454 Casull generates nearly 85% more recoil energy than the .44 Magnum; that we’d need something other than holes punched in plywood to judge the efficacy of each. We are literally just down the road from Max Yazzer’s farm and market. They’re the place you go for your Halloween jack-o-lantern. However, now, he has a surplus of melons. I think you can see where this is headed… I borrow Polack’s personal conveyance and run down to Max’s farm. I return with a trunk-load of elderly, overripe, cheap as chips, melons. Watermelons, Honeydews, Musks, and Casabas. We place them in strategic areas on the course, five for the Chief to find, and five for Polack. A .44 vs. a .454 melon-wise results in pretty much the same sort of mess: high-velocity fruit spatter. Although, the Chief was very impressed by the report of the .454. So, after running the tactical-melon course, clear demarcation of a winner was elusive. OK, OK, clever dicks. How about this? A standing shoot-off? We’ll set up 3 melons each at 30, 20, and 10 yards. Beginning at 30 yards, your time will be until you take out all three melons. But, they’re not going to be in a straight line, we’re going to make them somewhat camouflaged. You will stand in one small demarcated area, hunt those miscreant melons, and bring them to justice. Fastest time and greatest display wins, as determined by the Police Peanut Gallery. Polack and the Chief agree. The Chief goes first and dispatches the melons, with a fair amount of spatter, in 15.3 seconds. Not bad. Polack is next. He wipes out all the melons and creates some thoroughly impressive displays with Herman’s ‘special’ rounds. Normal ballistics for the .454 are, for a 250 grain (16 g) bullet, a muzzle velocity of over 2,400 feet per second, developing up to 2,800 ft-lb of energy. Herman’s hot loads are double that. Polack wins the day on impressive high-velocity melon distribution, but misses, so close, with a time of 17.0 seconds. Recoil’s a bitch. Then there are Herman’s ‘specialties’. The Chief is duly impressed and even comments that his ears are ringing even with the ear protectors. He asks to inspect the weapon. He is even more than duly impressed. Polack knows what’s up and asks the Chief if he’d like to give a whirl. Of course, the Chief can’t back down. Polack loads the .454 with 5 of Herman’s specialties: hollow-point rounds loaded hot, compressed, and tipped with alkaline earth metals, like metallic sodium and metallic potassium… We set up the nastiest, glorpiest, just barely-holding-together, overripe, laced with Tannerite (an impact-actuated low-explosive) watermelon at the ‘Concealed Carry’ distance of 5 meters. We slowly fade back into the distance to avoid the inevitable ‘Gallagher reaction’. The Chief fires one, and just nicks the top of the melon. Don’t laugh, with the type of recoil and heft of the sidearm, and tensing up in anticipation, it’s easy to be off the mark initially. The second round impacts dead-center. Now, alkaline earth metals and water don’t get along really well. In fact, their relationship is explosive. Especially explosive when delivered at 2,900 feet per second. The Chief catches a huge smattering of vitamin-packed watermelony back blast goo. He’s not entirely happy. He looks positively grisly with all that blown-up melon schmoo on his nice, neat uniform. He returns my gun and bans me from ever showing up at the police range again. Polack is on traffic duty for the next month. He figures it was well worth it. Back at the flat, Esme is shaking her head and wondering if I’ll ever grow up. “I may grow old, but I’ll never grow up.” I reply. I see I have several missed phone calls. Ah, me; no rest for the weary. Back to company-university liaison duties. After I had contacted these companies, I receive no less than 12 requests for symposia, talks, and seminars to be given to various level of industrial scientific employees in their respective companies. I am now slated to give academic conferences on stratigraphy, sedimentology, and seismic structural geology to different companies in Houston, Oklahoma City, Denver, Casper, Corpus Christi, New Orleans, and Tulsa. In the next 12 weeks, I’ll be giving no less than 8 talks in seven cities. I speak with Dean Vermiculari on how best to handle the situation. He understands and appoints two graduate student teaching assistants to handle my classes while I’m on the road. That relieves me of being physically there, but I still have to grade papers, compose lesson plans, and keep things running smoothly until finals. Besides giving the talks, there’s travel to oil fields, production facilitates, manufacturing plants, hotels, restaurants while I’m in town…the pace is excruciating. I’m gone more than I am at university. Plus in my time back home, I’m still the ad hoc master blaster for the limestone quarry. Then, there’s the companies arriving on campus, and the roles are reversed. Now I’m the welcome wagon and have to sort out the logistics of receiving the company representatives. I need to set up the colloquia to introduce the companies to the prospective students, arrange lodging, arrange passes for the university, transportation, “Meet-and-Greet’s, ad infinitum. I knew this was having a bit of effect on me when I came back to the flat after one particularly grueling ordeal of canceled flights, full hotels, missed connections and lukewarm reception by the company workers. “Hello”, I said, as I walked in the flat, “I believe you have a reservation for…” Esme just stood there, wondering if I was having a laugh. No, I wasn’t. I was completely hallucinating from road weariness, lack of sleep, jet lag, and total disorientation. This continued on for the next approximately 18 months. Esme was beginning to have second thoughts about all this. My teaching load was diminished by one whole introductory course. However, I was still flying hither and yon, delivering symposia, meeting with young geoscientists and getting to know the ins-and-outs of the Oil Industry. I found it particularly fascinating. Time marched on and it was once again it was the recruiting season. We had no less than eight oil companies visiting the university in their quest to swell the roster of their junior scientists. I’m still busier than a one-armed paperhanger in a windstorm, but have settled into a groove of sorts. I know the company recruiters and they now know me. I’ve actually struck up friendships with several. Particularly since I take them to the best local restaurants and bars after their recruiting duties are finished. I’ve met with recruiting representatives of Shrill Petrol, Mexxon, Nobil, Nocono Oil, Flug, Geddy, Brutish Petroleum, and Qexaco. The recruiting season is winding down and I find myself with Red (not Adair), of Nocono Oil. “Well, Doctor Rock”, Red states, “Another fine recruiting run. We’ve snagged two of your young geologists and one geophysicist. I’d say it was almost a perfect score.” We’re sitting in the Norton’s Steakhouse. After a couple of prime pink porterhouses, we’re working on the post-dinner double vodka and bitter lemon for me, and Lagavulin for Red. “Almost perfect?” I ask. “Yeah. There’s been this one small nagging concern from our company higher-ups.” Red continues. “What’s that?” I ask. “We need some more senior people. For one thing, we’ve recently opened a new petroleum laboratory down in our Houston office. Going to need some serious talent to run that show.” Red says. “I see”, I reply, “And…?” “We need mentors. Those with varied and far-flung knowledge. They must be well educated, global in experience and stature, with an [ahem] diverse set of skills.” Red notes. “Whew”, I agree, “That’s a tall order. You want my help with names of possible candidates? Is that it?” “Not as such, Doctor.” Red drains his drink, motions for me to do the same, and orders another round. Our drinks arrive and Red downs half his in one gulp. “Well, then”, I continue, “How can I help?” Red chuckles, “For someone so educated, you can really be thick as two short planks at times.” I sit back, and sip my Old Thought Provoker. The mercury-vapors light off. “No!” I say, incredulously. “Oh, yes.” Red smiles. “No?” I ask, slowly taking in the possible effects of what he’s hinting at… “OK, Doctor Rocknocker”, Red gets all serious and corporate, “We’d like to offer you a position at Nocono Oil as Senior Laboratory Manager and Head of Corporate Continuing Education.” You could have knocked me over with a grenade. I was stunned. I fumbled with my drink. “Red, you old con artist” I reply, “Is this a set-up?” Red, serious as a heart attack, looks directly at me and replies, “Doctor Rock, absolutely not, it’s a genuine offer.” He slides over a folder with some papers inside. “Here are the particulars.” Reeling, I accept the folder. I open it and right after the corporate logos and legal bullshit, I see a tall figure with a whole raft of zeros trailing behind it. I read furiously. The job would be both interesting and challenging. It would be in Houston, with travel and teaching at all other company outposts on a regular basis. I reexamine that figure from before and verify that I’m not now hallucinating. The job comes with furnished, corporate-paid housing, incredible benefits, loads of opportunity for advancement, more opportunity to travel, really generous vacation time… “Right. On the level?” I ask again. “Yep.” Red bluntly says. “Well”, I gulp, “you know I have to discuss this with Esme”, whom he’s met several times previous. “Of course, and you probably want to finish out the semester, correct?” red asks. “Oh, yes.” I reply. There would be a monsoon of paperwork and other grunt work I’d need to conclude or hand over if I were to accept this offer. “OK, then”, Red finishes his drink, motions for me to do the same, a real rarity; but I was in another dimension at this point. He orders another round and sits back, waiting on a refill. “You have two weeks to reply” Red states. “I know that’s not a terribly long time, but we need to fill this position ASAP. Can I ask for that? Your answer, yea, or nay, within a fortnight?” Red demands. “Yes”, I reply. “I at least owe you that.” And that was the end of the discussion for the night about me joining the private sector. We stayed a few more hours, chatting, smoking my cigars, and discussing everything but the lumbering elephant in the room. We part outside as I need to head back to our flat. Red wants to go downtown to one of those “Gentleman’s Clubs” he’s heard were so famous at the time. I was flummoxed the whole cab ride home. It was late when I returned, but I simply had to wake Es with the news. “Rock, for pity’s sake, its 2 o’clock in the morning!” Es protests. “Can’t this wait until later?” “Sorry, my dear” I reply, probably as serious as I ever had with Esme. “This is a potential game-changer.” “What is it? Are you OK?” Esme trembles. “Oh, I’m fine. Better than fine.” I reply. She’s relieved. “Then what’s so important?” she asks. “Um…how would you like to move to Houston?” I ask. “You going to teach at Cougar High (University of Houston)?” she inquires. “Nope. Brace yourself. I’ve been offered a job with Nocono Oil.” I finally spill the beans. Esme is slightly stunned and sits down. I go to the wet bar, fix me a bracing potato juice and citrus and Esme a stiff white Zinfandel. I hand her the wine and she is still semi-dazed and digesting the information. I slurp a good portion of my drink, retrieve her Sobranjes and me a cigar from my Turkmenistan humidor. I sit on the couch next to her and hug her soundly. “Esme? Es? Earth to Es? You in there?” I joke. “Oh, Yeah. Rock. Really? Hang on”, she leaves, returning with her housecoat as this might take a little time. “So?” I ask, “Your thoughts. Now! Immediately! Initial reaction!” I try to jar her back into reality. “Well, what do you want?” she asks. “C’mon, my dearest. You know I hate that. No, what do you think? What do you honestly think?” I reply. We both fire up our smokes, and I refresh our drinks. We return to the dinner table where Red’s folder lies. “Es, here. Look at this.” I say, sliding the portfolio over to her. She reads like a hungry man at a Vegas casino buffet. I can tell where she was stopped by something extraordinary. “This is for real?” she asks, “Red’s not pulling a fast one?” “Nope. It’s the genuine article”, I tell her, “He needs my reply within two weeks.” “Rock, Rock…I just don’t know. It’s a lot to process at 0230 in the morning. Let’s go to bed and have a think in the morning. You have the luxury of at least that amount of time.” She notes. “Right again, as usual”, I say, “Stuff it. It can wait.” We toddle off to bed. The next morning, over Cuban omelets and Greenland Coffees, we sort through the particulars. “Rock, it’s an extraordinary offer. But, do you want to leave teaching? I remember how you got all animated by Dean Vermiculari giving you the corporate liaison job and how that would improve your shot at tenure.” She notes. “I just don’t know. I’m still shell-shocked.” I tell her. “Let me go to school and we’ll pick this up tonight. We both have work to do no matter what. Oh, bloody hell. I hadn’t considered your job. Another wrinkle in the mess.” “Don’t you worry about that”, Esme smiles. “One catastrophe at a time.” “I do so love you.” I hug her soundly. “Think I should mention this offer to anyone at school?” “No. Definitely not.” Esme shakes her head. “Let’s figure this out on our own.” “I agree”, I say, kiss her and depart for school once again. The next week was a blur. Recruiting duties were dragging and I was being preoccupied. Even my students noted the lack of in-room explosions lately. I spend the next Saturday at the quarry, doing some small amount of blasting. I quiz the quarry owners about their progress in acquiring a new master for the quarry’s operation. “Oh, Doctor Rock” they gush, “You’re doing such a fine job, we haven’t really looked. Why do you ask?” “No particular reason at this time, I reply, “But perhaps you might want to begin looking” The chinks in my armor were finally starting to show. Sunday was spent out on Sliver Lake, with Esme and me chasing the elusive crappie, perch, and bucketmouth bass. It also gave us a chance to clear our heads from work, school and other such intrusions. We both needed a bit of downtime. Later that night, after a meal of beer-battered fillet of crappie and perch on the barbie, we sit down at the dinner table. The portfolio sits there, taunting us. I get up, makes us both our drinks, sit down and declare that this is it. “Es, darling” I say, “its nut-cuttin’ time. We need to make our decision.” “You’re right.” Es agrees, “Time for risk-reward analysis. Get some paper and some pencils.” We spend the next few hours listing the pros and cons of accepting the Houston position or staying here and pursuing my tenured professorship. After several hours, I stretch, stand, and go to the fridge. I retrieve the bottle of Bollinger Les Vieilles Vignes Francaises I had purchased the other day. I return to the table with the wine and the glasses, pop the cork and pour us both a glass of high-brow bubble water. I hug and kiss Esme like I had just returned from a long, solo expedition. “Esme, my darling. I’d like to propose a toast. First to us. Hа здоровый!” “Cheers!” Esme replies. “Secondly to Red, Dean Vermiculari, the quarry guys, Polack the Cop, and all the others that makes our life weird around here.” “Seconded”, Es echoes. “Finally: to Houston, Texas. Our new home!” I finally add. The next morning, Dean Vermiculari peers over the top of his pince-nez glasses. He’s not looking overly happy with me right now. “Why is it, Doctor, that everyone that receives the job of corporate liaison ends up going with corporate?” he asks. “Perhaps it’s just the exposure to another world that exists beyond academia.” I reply, truthfully. “Doctor Rocknocker,” the Dean gravely states, “I am not at all happy about your decision. We had great hopes for you here and you were riding right up the tenure track. Another five years and it would have been assured.” “Five years is a long time, Dean”, I state the obvious. “Yes, indeed.” The Dean replies frostily. “However, you are young. Perhaps you need to get this private sector nonsense out of your system, then you can return to academia where you belong.” “Perhaps, perhaps”, I reply. “Please, do consider this option down the road. You and your antics will be missed here, by students and faculty alike.” He says. “I will, Dean, I promise.” I reply “However, for now, it’s time for my boot heels to be wanderin’.” “Doctor, I will miss your strange and unique way of looking at life. I reluctantly accept your resignation at the end of the current semester and wish you all the best in your newest endeavors. Please remember us when corporate support for academia is mentioned in your new company.” he says. “I promise you, Dean, I will not forget what I’ve learned here and what you’ve taught. It’s the least I can do,” I reply. “I will never forget my roots.” “All I can ask”, he concludes. He stands to shake my hand. We shake and my audience is over. I resign from the quarry a week later. They haven’t found a new blaster but wish me well on my new journey. I tell them I’m here until the end of the semester, so I won’t leave them high and dry. I tell Polack the Cop about all the goings-on. “Who the hell can I roust for beer and cigars now?” He whines. “Let me know when you get to Texas if they need any cops. I wouldn’t mind trying’ that. Hell, maybe a Texas Ranger!” “A Cheesehead Ranger…?” I assure him I will and pass a box of cigars to him as a parting gift. He gives me a mayoral-signed get-out-of-jail-free card. “Now you can drive that old Harley just as crazy as you want.” He chuckles. “Thanks, Polack.” I say, shaking his hand. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I sold my bike a week earlier. Red was very chuffed with the news. “Snagged me a big one this time!’ He laughed, over the phone. There was enough paperwork, considerations and decisions to be made to last the remaining time Esme and I had in-state until our move. Already, a moving company had arrived, done inventory, and was preparing for our move to Houston. Esme resigned her position and decided she wanted to take some time off. She wanted to be a housewife, a colleague, and not have to work for once at an outside job. My new position allowed for that in spades. Besides with her credentials, anytime when she wants to re-join the workforce, there are myriad opportunities in the Bayou City. We made the choice of housing out west of town, in Katy, Texas. We could have chosen Sugarland, Addicks, Greenspoint, Greenway, or the Memorial area. However, these west Houston company properties were closest to the job and largest in square footage. My students got wind of my resignation and relocation. They threw me an unexpected farewell party at the Gast Haus. It was nickel-beer night and since they were footing the bill, it all worked out just fine. I would miss the old place. The camaraderie, the seasons, the university; hell my home these last many years. I’ve been on many, many expeditions, but I always returned home. Now, home was moving and was awaiting our arrival. Esme and I said our farewells to our families as well. We were the first through college, the first ones to travel international, the first Doctor in the family, and the first to leave the state. That’s a lot of familial firsts. I had to keep reminding everyone it wouldn’t be the last. Hell, we’re just moving to Texas, it’s not like we’re off to Greenland or Mongolia… [Gasp] We saddled up Es’s old Chevy Nova, took one last, lingering look in the rearview mirror, and said fare thee well to our previous lives. “We’ll be back. Someday. I promise” I told the city of our youth and young married adulthood. We decided to drive to Houston because we had the luxury of a bit of time. We needed the stretch to chew over some interpersonal and private things on the way to the next chapter in our lives. Besides, the weather was good, the roads ahead open and clear, and Texas had no ‘Open Container’ law, yet. We pointed the old Nova south and hit the gas. A week later, we’re wandering around our new house in Katy, Texas. Our belongings, scant though they may be, arrived the day after we did. Esme and I spent the next couple of day rearranging the house, buying necessary domestic bits and pieces, and getting to know our new neighborhood. First thing, though, Esme wanted to replace the old Nova. I concurred, but insisted we keep it as a second car and went out to purchase our first new car as a couple. I wanted a Land Rover. We ended up with a glossy black Toyota 4-Runner. Close enough. I was scheduled to show up at my new job the next Monday. I had my own parking spot, complete with “Reserved for Dr. Rock” painted on the bumper block. I was shown my new lab and was introduced to my seven laboratory assistants. I was shown the catalogs I could use to order what I needed and went over the requisition procedures. I was trotted around to meet the company CEO, CFO, CIO, VPs and many, many more company executives and managers. I’ve met with presidents and heads of state, I was impressed but not overly. They seemed like a more or less nice bunch of chaps. Almost exactly five weeks to the day from our arrival in Houston, I come home, yelling “Darling, I’m home!” Esme comes to greet me with a rib-rearranging hug. She tells me to sit at the dinner table, where my long hard day at the office drink, cigar, ashtray, and lighter are already set. “How was work, dear?” she asks, sitting down with her Perrier water. “Oh, it’s going great. The knotheads let me have an open-ended budget until I get the labs sorted just the way I want it. These guys pay their bills on time and I have carte blanche at Wards Scientific, and other supply houses. My crew is great, no interpersonal crapola, and hard workers. I can smoke in my office and no one dares give me shit about my cigars. I’m getting to know the exploration department quite well. They’re really interested in our expeditions and are more interested in my opinions of their new exploration directives.” Esme just smiles and sips her water. “Odd”, I thought. “That’s great, dear.” She says. “I am so glad to hear it.” “Me too”, I say, “How are you holding up after all these weeks alone?” “Oh, I’m getting used to it.” She smiles. And smiles. Beatifically. Glowing. “What?” I ask. “Remember what we talked about in the car on the way down here?” She asks. “We talked about a lot of things…” I say, suddenly my eyes grew very, very wide indeed. “Yes. You’re going to be a father. I’m pregnant, Rock.” Esme smiles.
I will be going to the US sometime next February and plan on traveling for about 3 weeks. I will be traveling with my wife and we are both aged in our early 30's. So far we have the following itinerary: - New York (6 nights) - watch some NBA games and look around the city. - Washington DC (3 nights) - Is 3 nights too long? - Texas (not sure which city, Dallas?, Austin? SA? Houston?) - any advice would help. I'm thinking of Dallas so I can watch a Mavs game. - Las Vegas (4 nights) - watch shows, eat and go to the casinos. Bus or flight to LA? - LA (5 nights) - venice beach, santa Monica pier, Rodeo Dr etc I am hoping to watch some NBA games a long the way and am interested in most things (Nightlife, sports, museums, music, food etc) with the exception of Art. Any advice or tips would be great. Open to almost anything. Also any tips about flying domestically in the US?
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I will be going to the US sometime next February and plan on traveling for about 3 weeks. I will be traveling with my wife and we are both aged in our early 30's. So far we have the following itinerary:
New York (6 nights) - watch some NBA games and look around the city.
Washington DC (3 nights) - Is 3 nights too long?
Texas (not sure which city, Dallas?, Austin? SA? Houston?) - any advice would help. I'm thinking of Dallas so I can watch a Mavs game.
Las Vegas (4 nights) - watch shows, eat and go to the casinos. Bus or flight to LA?
LA (5 nights) - venice beach, santa Monica pier, Rodeo Dr etc
I am hoping to watch some NBA games a long the way and am interested in most things (Nightlife, sports, museums, music, food etc) with the exception of Art. Any advice or tips would be great. Open to almost anything. Also any tips about flying domestically in the US?
PART ONE OF FIVE So, you wanna go to SHOT show? You think it's all fun and games? Get to play with guns? See Jesse James and James Yeager? SHOT show is the annual pilgrimage of the unwashed masses to Las Vegas to rub elbows with youtube celebrities, bloggers and overseas businessmen copying US made equipment and share infectious disease. If you love guns, gambling and gonorrhea - SHOT show is for you! It is not my typical idea of a good time. I am not a big fan of Las Vegas. However: I do attend for a few reasons. First, I do enjoy travel and I'm gold on UA so I can usually score an upgrade. Second, industry people are in there that I do hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars with business with so it's nice to put a face with the name and see what deals are out there. SHOT for me has been a bust for the past few years. Being a value guy, I want to buy at $1000 and sell at $3000 and as of recently the gun business is more like buy for $1 and sell for $1.10 if you get what I mean. We used to do business at SHOT and now it's just checking in on foursquare, instagram and rubbing elbows with bloggers and the like. I want to make money, not spend money so this is very annoying to me. Anyways, onto the play by play. Saturday, January 19th. Three days before SHOT show. I talk a friend of mine to drive me to the airport after I drop my F350 at the body shop. I had a hit and run and someone totally fucked up all my paint and clearcoat. My guy says he can get it done while I'm gone for SHOT so I hitch a ride with a friend and pick up the tab for lunch. We have brisket. It is delicious. I get to the airport 3 hours early for my flight just in case the TSA line is a shitshow thanks to, well TSA. The government shutdown is not helping these folks. I have pre check and much to my surprise I breeze right through after a brief 3 minute wait. I slog my way to the lounge, as shitty as it is to wait for my winged chariot to IAH. I have gone from being in an abusive relationship with AA to being in an abusive relationship with UA. Although if you really want to experience the battered spouse feeling, NK is a few gates over. I board my flight to IAH and my Renton assembled chariot is on time and boarding early. The hate agent scans my pass and the alarms go off and spits off a new boarding pass. I have been upgraded to first class. You all will be turning right, I will be turning left once I pass the threshold of 2L on this old 757. I'll take a cleared upgrade at the gate any day of the week considering that I am 29/53 for Bush to LAX. Fuck my life. I gate check my bags to make life easier for me and the rest of the folks riding with me. If I don't have to worry about being short on time at my destination, I like to gate check to free up bins for those who are not as fortunate. Eventually I board and ask the FA to say hi to the captain and get a ride report. She says no problem. I step down into the 757 flight deck and take some selfies with the crew. They appreciate my aviation nerdery. They tell me that there will be light chop all over texas today and we're going to have some bumps so strap in and don't be a hero. Having brightened the day of the flight crew, I head back to my lie flat window seat, fully recline and kick back and relax by listening to channel 9 on the IFE. It's disabled. Fuck. I put on a movie and watch the delightful Tag with the always excellent Jon Hamm, Ed Helms and others. It's a good movie and made me laugh. Just as we get to the gate the credits roll. We land at Bush right on time but I have a 59 minute spa layover I had planned OR I can go to Landrys with my priory pass and get some blackened snapper. Do I hightail it to the Centurion lounge in terminal D, my home away from home? Or go for fresh grilled seafood? This centurion lounge does not have a spa. Fuck it, lets go cajun. I walk over to Landrys and order the blackened snapper. It is delicious. The kitchen is a little behind so they box it up the rest of it for me to take on the plane which they don't have to do and I leave the waitress a nice tip. I am sweating from the blackened seasoning. I don't care. NOM NOM NOM. Fish is delish. They have already started boarding to LAX as I walk up to the gate. I ask the hate agent if there's any upgrades. She says first is checked in full and we are 100% packed to LAX today. I thank her and board my bulkhead seat to LAX with my blackened snapper in one hand and personal item in the other. Giving the FA a friendly nod, I ask to say hi to the captain and she says no way boss, we're busy - sit down and shut up. Rude. The boarding door closes for an on time departure and I watch another classic - Wall Street! I polish off the blackened snapper, dirty rice and green beans. Charlie Sheen before he went crazy was a pretty good actor. He's so dreamy. I'm sweating profusely from the blackened seasoning and get up to throw away my trash because I didn't want the other guys in coach to have to do it for me. I walk right up to the forward galley into Bitchy McBitchface who woke up on the wrong side of life starts telling me to use the coach lavatory. I tell her I just wanted to throw some trash away and she gave me more attitude than a sassy black woman working at the DMV. Listen lady, if you don't wanna be dealing with trash - maybe you shouldn't be working for United, eh? I take my seat and I fall asleep on the way to LA. The ride is smoother than my nephew's 16 month old ass. The flight was not long enough. The landing is a perfect grease job on 24R and the only thing awakening me from my slumber is the reversers on the 737 Max. I pull my headset out so I can tune in LAX ground on LiveATC just as we make the left for taxiway Alpha/Alpha. I see the taxiway signs out of the corner of my window and start the feed just as I hear the ding. ding What I'm expecting: Welcome to Los Angeles where the local time is 5:55. Your Houston based flight crew would like to thank you for flying United and your baggage will be at carousel (integer) What I heard from a clearly panic stricken FA: IF THERE IS A DOCTOR OR ANYONE WITH MEDICAL TRAINING ON BOARD PLEASE RING YOUR CALL BUTTON. Everyone wants to be a hero until it's time to do hero shit. I reach up and press the button and a single chime tells the FA that row 9 pressed button. ding FA: If you are a doctor or have medical training please head to the rear galley immediately. I dumped my phone in my seat. (This was my first mistake. I'll tell you why later.) Shit. It's go time. The passengers next to me are soundly asleep and it's a full flight, so I unbuckle my belt and turnstile jump over the two of them making a resounding thud onto the cabin floor. I promptly walked with a purpose to the rear cabin. As I'm heading back I hear someone else walking behind me but I'm focused on the long walk from the bulkhead to the rear galley. I arrive shortly and my immediate impression is that the rear galley is not in good shape. Oh, the bitchface FA that told me off? She's now profusely thanking me for showing up. Funny how that works isn't it? There's a woman lying across three jumpseats on oxygen screaming in pain with a clearly experienced physician working on her and checking her out. I am not about to get in his way. Right behind me is a six foot three beast of a man who I can only imagine used to play right wing for Detroit. Doc 1 is working her, there's me and Doc 2 is behind me. Doc 1 tells us she's got shortness of breath and chest pains. Doc 2 nods and says he's a trauma surgeon from Cedars Sinai. Doc 1 tells us he's an internal medicine specialist at UCLA. Doc 2 asks me what my specialty is. FC says structural firefighting and making sure you two get everything you need. Doc 2 looks at the FA and asks if they got an AED on board. I look up at the nearest overhead and there's an AED in the compartment, I bust it out and hand it to him. They start sizing her up as we taxi down Alpha/Alpha. I stand in the aisle inbetween the two bathroom doors as they do their thing ready to help out. (FC breaks the fourth wall) FOR THE UNINITIATED: United is in terminals 7/8 on the south side of LAX. When you land next to In-and-Out Burger on Sepuldeva you're on the north side of the field. It's easily a 20 minute ride to get from one side of the airport to another when they're busy. Prime time for LAX is 1800hrs because you have all the morning flights from the east and the afternoon flights from the central time zone arriving. When you have a medical emergency and time is a factor, a 20 minute ride to the gate is what we call sub optimal. There's hard stand/remote gates at LAX on the northwest side of the field surface street adjacent that you can get to a lot faster than a long haul around the airport. If you give me a choice of going to the hard stand and meeting the ambulance or taking a 15-20 minute taxi during rush hour to a UA staffed ramp - I will GLADLY take to the hard stand, shut down and start em up. Yes, it's going to inconvenience a plane full of people for 20 minutes for you to unload, restart and taxi back. No, I give zero fucks. My mistake was leaving my phone behind. Had I had it with me, I would have known we were going long way around and applied some intervention techniques to get things moving faster. I had no idea where we were. (Cut to present) Doc 1 managed the best he could and the lady said inbetween raspy breaths that she was going to start vomiting from the pain. Doc calls for a bag. The FA takes the safety equipment bag, the one holding the lifevest, seatbelt extender and oxygen mask and empties it. OH FOR FUCKS SAKE. I reach over to the nearest passenger, pull all the contents of the seatback out, dump it on the floor and hand doc 1 a United brand official airsick bag. Just as I do this and I step back, the plane rapidly slows down and begins to turn. (FC breaks the fourth wall again) I used the term suboptimal earlier, and this is going to be a theme for the rest of the trip. Boeing in their infinite wisdom decided to stretch a 737 design and call it the MAX instead of doing a clean sheet. Three FA's, two doctors, me, and our lady experiencing chest pains are in the rear galley all not wearing seatbelts. All but the patient are standing. We are something like 80 feet behind the main landing gear. Inertia is not our friend today. I start falling and I grab the only thing I can on the way down: the door handle to the lavatory. (Cut to present) Next thing I know, I've experienced what the FAA would probably term a "Lavatory Incursion" - and I wonder where my life has gone wrong as my knee has hit the toilet bowl. I get back up and prop a hand up on the cabin ceiling just to steady myself for the rest of the ride to the gate. I look towards the front of the plane and notice something. Some fuckwit in row 29 is livestreaming this on instagram or some crap. Are you fucking shitting me? I lean over to the purser and tell her that while Doc 1 and 2 are fixing her, I'm gonna go do some fixing of my own about 10 rows up. My resting bitch face is on point right now as I walk up to the tactless millennial inconsiderate smartphone user and get ready to fix this problem in a way honed by years of catholic school, brute force and dealing with shithead customers. FC: Just what do you think you're doing? 1: I'm livestreaming this on twitter. It's my right. FC: You're gonna delete whatever you filmed right now. 1: Or what are you gonna do about it? FC: You see that FA over there? The one that looks like she's not taking any shit from anybody today? I'm gonna ask her for the intercom, I'm gonna call the captain and my friends over at the LAPD are gonna haul your ass in front of a judge and the next place you're gonna be livestreaming from is the back of a police car. And let me tell you something you might not know. There's two ways to enjoy LA Jail on a Saturday night. One's a Richard Pryor album. The other's when a skinny inked up ginger white boy like you walks in. Give me that goddamn phone. I'm handed the phone and I delete the video as I walk back to the rear galley and put it in my back pocket. People are now asking if they're gonna make their connections and shit and I tell them to shut up, we've got more important things going on. As I walk back I peek through the windows seeing nothing but darkness. How long does it take to get to the gate? And even then, is there an ambulance waiting there? What the fuck is happening? Where the fuck are we? I ask Bitch McBitchface how long these symptoms have been going on. Apparently this issue had just arisen upon landing. Doc 1 asks for a stethoscope. I pull down the first aid kit from the compartment. It requires keys. The cabin crew has to find the keys for the first aid kit. I'm eventually handed a key and bust out a stethoscope for the doc. I peer out the window of the rearmost seats looking for signs of a gate, ambulance or anything I can reference to figure out where we are - the tower, a 777 tail which would tell me we are nearing the international terminal.....nothing but darkness. This is not good. Doc keeps the O2 flowing as we are all standing there helpless waiting for the plane to get to the ambulance or vice versa. The cabin crew asks how they're going to get her off the plane. FC: Well she's in no condition to walk, can you get the rampers to put air stairs on 2L and take her off that way? It would be easier and optimal. FA: I don't think we are able to do that (It is at this point I think I smell toast. WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU CAN'T DO THAT? GET ON THE INTERCOM AND TELL THE CAPTAIN THAT THEY ARE GOING TO HAVE TO TAKE HER OFF THE PLANE VIA 2L AND STAIRS WTF) I get that what is happening is clearly exceeding the crew's training but this is.....bad. Eventually we arrive at the gate and the fine folks at Station 51 from LAFD EMS arrive. The EMT sizes it up and calls for an aisle chair to be brought to take her off the plane since she can't walk. (WE HAVE BEEN SAYING THIS THE WHOLE TIME!) They load her up and I step out of the way into the lavatory, I see them wheel her out through a crack in the door. I take this chance to do a bit from spies like us. I look to my left and extend my hand. Doctor. I nod. I repeat to the right. They also repeat the bit. We chuckle. I look towards Doc 2. FC: Hey Docs, I didn't catch your names. I'm Will. Will Hayden. Doc 2: George, George Rodriguez. FC: Good work there Dr Rodriguez. Thanks for helping out. Doc 2: We're doctors. It's what we do. Doc 1: Hiya Will, I'm Charlie Fong. FC: Nice work today Dr Fong. Thank you for showing up. We start walking back to our seats as I snort out a laugh. FC: So, Dr Fong.....I guess it's safe to say that United has successfully smoothed things over with the Asian physician community? The doc's have a two Mississippi awkward pause as they begun laughing hysterically. Please, tip your waitresses. Try the veal. I'm here all night. Tactless millennial asks me to return phone, and I hand it back as we walk back to our seats. EMS clears the plane, captain tells people that they can now leave and a cacophony of seat belt buckles pierces the high pitched drone that is a 737 sitting at the gate without engines running on shore power. I ask Bitchy if I can see the captain on the way out as she once more thanks me for my service. She stuck her head in, got a nod and let me pass. I asked the captain why we landed on the north side of the field with an onboard medical and why we didn't get priority handling from the ground controller and why the hell it took so long to get to the gate. His response was staggering. CA: We didn't even know there was an emergency in the galley until the FA told us. By then we were almost to the terminal. FC: Are you fucking kidding me? CA: Nope. By the time we knew something was going on we were already on the ground and almost to the gate. We talk airplane briefly about the 737 Max, the new jumpseats and I wish them a good rest of the trip. I secretly think he's got to be shitting me. Being a good aviation nerd, I made mental note to check his work after I got back to the hotel. I head to the lounge in LAX for a bite to eat, a sprite and some very boring time to myself. Just as I walk into the terminal there's a voicemail from my uncle. My plan for LA was to see my family - and my cousin and his wife who's pregnant with their second kid. I crash at my uncle's house in Pasadena and walk around old town and shop at Vromans Bookstore and enjoy all that Southern California has to offer. It's a good way to spend a weekend. If you ever get a chance, do it. It's fun. I can pay United a shitload of money to fly into McCarran on Monday or I can spend 1/3 of that and go into LAX a few days before and hop over for $45. I love LA. NEW VOICEMAIL FROM UNCLE LOU: Family emergency, we all have to head to Chicago because Lisa's mom is in the hospital and we can't see you this weekend. You're on your own. I'm on my way to Burbank to catch the last flight to Midway. Talk to you later. Fuck. Time for an FC adventure. I order some food in the lounge and crack open the laptop. One of my customers works for LAFD. I find his personal cell phone number in my sales records. ring ring 1: Go for Smith FC: Chief Smith! Will Hayden here! How's that M110 running? 1: Will...holy shit long time no talk. What's going on? FC: Family bailed on me for this weekend, gotta make my own adventure. You working tomorrow? I'd love to see how LA does things. 1: No, but I have some friends on C shift that are. Let me see who's gonna be around. Let me call you back in 10. FC: You got it Chief. I eat and drink and relax and the phone rings back. Chief smith says be at station 9 at 0800 hrs Sunday morning. I say no problem! Thanks! He tells me to check in with the captain of the truck crew and he'll show me around. While I'm on the laptop I book the marriott in Torrance. It's near the airport and a 25 minute ride to station 9. Little did I know it's next to a goddamn oil refinery and the housekeeping staff have left all the windows to my room open. Ugh. I kick back and take a shower. When I get back, I pulled all the ATC tape from LAX tower, from landing clearance to touchdown to the ground controller handoff to the checkpoint, to the request for medical assistance and timestamped all of it. The request to LAX ground for EMS was made somewhere on taxiway bravo after passing papa (TBIT) but before Charlie-6. (T7). By that time we were already on the south side of the field and terminal adjacent. Cabin crew didn't tell the captain to request EMS till we got to the other side of the fucking airport. From the moment I walked up, I had assumed (incorrectly) that prior to the request for medical assistance they would at least have told the captain what was going on. They didn't and he was flying blind. When you do a CPR class the first thing you do is call 911 and ask for an ambulance because it does not matter how much CPR you do if an ambulance never shows up to take you to the hospital. There's a lesson to be learned here. When seconds count, the request for EMS is waiting for the plane to get to the terminal to be called. I knew United wasn't great, but this is to use a southern california term - no bueno. The Westchester In and Out Burger has a 4x4 with my name on it and it is DELICIOUS. After I finish eating I hop on the hangout with the guys. Since I've got no plans till morning I decide that it's worth the crazy time and I call u/gunexpert69 and we make plans to hang out at his local watering hole. We then try to pick up some flight attendants at the Doubletree. We fail miserably and call it a night. Sunday, January 20th. Two days before SHOT show. My alarm is set for 727AM. It rings, I wash up, jump in the car and put free fallin by Tom Petty on the radio and hop onto 405 south to pick up 110 north. The freeways are empty and I make incredible time downtown. I look down at the address and wonder where the fuck I am going. 7th and San Julian St? I drive around and there are tents on the sidewalk everywhere. This is the closest I have seen to life in a WROL situation. Eventually I find a spot on 7th street, bang on the door and the guys tell me to pull my car into the back lot. I do so and the guys are having breakfast and invite me to sit down and grab a bite. When in Rome...... I grab some eggs, bacon and a biscuit and the truck captain comes by and says oh you know Smith? Apparently they came up in the same academy class and are old friends. He sticks his head out the door and yells at one of the guys and pantomimes some instructions. I don't speak ASL so I just nod and take it in. He runs down what they're doing today. LA tradition is that weekends are for the boys so they do training on weekends. It's 820AM and they've setup a training scenario and are gonna run it. This looks cool. One of the guys comes back and hands me a headset, saladbowl and turnout coat. Captain says you're with me in the truck. Gear up. Uh. What? CA: Yeah, Chief Smith said you'd be riding along with us today. Right? FC: LOL! I thought he was just gonna do a station visit. Sure, I'll ride with you guys. CA: You ever see a TDA before? FC: I used to be on the engine or the quint so this is gonna be new. CA: Well, jump in. Lets go. My ride to LA was a 737 max made in Renton that just came off the line January 17th. My ride to Skid Row was a 100' Pierce Arrow XT Tractor Drawn Aerial that was three years old. I hopped in and we drove around to the training location where the guys were to setup the ladder and pretend like they were venting a roof on a 5 story building. I was told to go shadow the command post as they'd be evaluating the guys and they had a good training day. LA has a good group of people and it shows. They did a post training debrief, simulated a dry hydrant and talked about everything they did, everything they did badly and everything they could do better. LA has some fantastic people there that are very talented. The guys started putting tools away and rolling hose. I find the captain over on one of the engines and ask him if they need help with anything. He says if you want to help out, we're breaking down that attack line you can drain it. FC: You guys straight roll to a flat load right? CA: Yeah. You know hose? FC: Drivers do it with hose. CA: LOL! Hadn't heard that one before! Here's some gloves. He gave me some gloves, I straight rolled three sections of three quarter line and hauled it all back to the engine where I found the truck captain loading hose with his guys. If anyone wants to see where real leadership is, it's helping your guys load hose and pack up tools. I hook up and look up as I notice their technique. LA flat loads all their attack line, no preconnects. Two guys in the bed dressing and dutching it, one guy on the ground, straight roll between the boots pulling hose straight up into the engine. Gets any residual water out and they can check the gaskets every length. Never seen that done before but it looks like a smooth technique. I hook up the last of their attack line as the guys finish packing up. The bells come in and there's an automatic fire alarm tripped. First call of the morning. We hop over there and its' a false alarm. The rest of the day is spent with station 9 watching the various indigenous folks of Skid Row do their thing. Station 9 is the busiest fire station in the nation. Before lunch they ran 3 overdoses, 2 stabbings, and a cacophany of crap. I went with them and their ambulance drivers and EMT's really earn every dollar they make working this area. After a quick break for lunch, they start watching the Rams game. Just as it got good, bells came in for another few calls and next thing I knew - the Rams were going to the super bowl and the dinner bell was ringing. I decided it would be overstaying my welcome to hang out for dinner so I packed up and bought a shirt and told the guys if they ever needed guns to shout at me. Drove over to Grand Central Market to get a bite to eat and then grabbed some in and out burger on my way back to the hotel. txgi is sloshed and in no position to travel after watching the patriots destroy KC. It's been a crazy day and the beginning of a crazy trip. And it's just getting started. Monday, January 21st. One day before SHOT Show I wake up late, grab lunch at the Del Amo mall and do some shopping. My flight to McCarran leaves at 7PM and arrives just after 8PM. Knowing rush hour traffic in LA I decide to leave early and get to the airport at 430. I hightail it to the lounge in TBIT and grab a bite to eat and relax. I'm on an Alaska A320 to McCarran all the way in the back but at least I got a window seat. I stop in on the way to talk to the captain and he asks me a bunch of gun questions. I tell him the VP9 is good to go and he should buy it with his ATP credentials. The 320 ride to LAS is entirely filled with moderate chop. The airplane is literally banging the side of the plane into my head. It is a miserable flight. We land on time and I am unable to stop at the Centurion lounge for a bite and a drink because it's closed for renovations. I grab my bags and pick up my badge for SHOT Show at the airport and jump on the shuttle bus to Hertz. I reserved a compact knowing I'd need to be in and out of a tight parking garage. I get to my assigned spot, spot 13 and there's a fullsize Chevy Suburban there. What the fuck is this? I throw my bags inside, jump in and drive right up to the Gold Member service area. FC: The lady on the phone asked me compact, midsize or fullsize - WHAT THE HELL IS THIS? Hertz: That's the Hertz Love Wagon! Think of all the ladies you can drive around in this! FC: DO I LOOK LIKE A GODDAMN LYFT FOR WORKING GIRLS? It is at this point where I learn something. The best part about Vegas is anything crazy or unbelievable can be explained or justified by shrugging your shoulders, opening your palms upward and saying "It's Vegas!" Hertz: It's Vegas! FC: I am not driving (gesticulates widlly) THIS into the parking garage of the Palazzo for 4 days straight! Hertz is not impressed with my pantomime. They find me a brand new 2019 Honda Pilot with 19 miles on it. I hightail it up the highway to Circus Circus. Check in line is totally deserted. I am able to haul my bags up and get keys in 3 minutes flat. That's gotta be a fucking record. Just as I arrive at my room I decide to send Rusty Shackleford a picture of me looking grumpy in front of the hertz love wagon. RS: ARE YOU IN VEGAS?!?!?!??!?!? FC: YES!!!! WHY ARE WE YELLING?!?!?!??!? (image of Rusty coming down the escalator with the sign behind him that says WELCOME TO LAS VEGAS in the background) FC: Oh dear god. I just got to the hotel to dump off my bags, you want a ride? I can be there in 20. RS: Nah man we just landed a few min ago I was gonna take an uber FC: By the time you get to the rideshare area it'll be 20 minutes. I can be there by the time you get to the curb. Seriously. RS: LOL okay head over! I look at my watch. Las Vegas Blvd traffic on a monday night? This isn't gonna work. I grab my coat and run back to the parking garage and tear out of the CC garage tires squealing all the way down. I bang a left onto Sammy Davis Jr Drive and haul ass to Spring mountain where I jump on 15 and get the car up to 100MPH between mandalay bay and 215. McCarran Airport SUCKS in many regards and the airport pickup is one of them. It's not laid out well at all but it makes the cabbies plenty of money. I find it kinda funny because this year I'm picking up Rusty. Last year I was picking up a coworker of a buddy of mine who needed his SHOT show pass and there was no way to get it to him that night so I just said fuck it, give me the pass and I'll get it to him and drive him to the hotel. The year before, I picked up u/fluffy_butternut. I guess I am the world's worst uber driver. I like doing the same bit over and over again like beating a dead horse so I can pickup Rusty one of to ways. A: The classic Las Vegas Airport pickup. Drive to airport and park car on curb. Wait for metro PD to start yelling at you for parking on the sidewalk. Message Rusty to tell him I'm the one parked on the sidewalk. B: In my best Arnold Schwarzenegger impression: COME WITH ME IF YOU WANT TO LIVE My calculations were rough but I figured rusty should get to the curb right at the same time as me. If he's there already, we do B. If he's not, I'll do A. The speed limit in the tunnel under the airport is 55. I'm doing 90. I fly up the ramp to Terminal 1 and tell him that I'll grab him at the American arrivals level. Just as I pull off to the curb to tell him I'm here he tells me he's just walked outside and I look up and see a classically hawaiian shirt standing at the curb. I pull the car forward, stop quickly and do my best Arnold. He laughs and hops in. I take him to his hotel and dump him off at registration as I park the car. I spend 20 minutes parking the car and I walk over to registration to find him still in line. The hotel is packed with people for the convention. Behind us is a beautiful blonde engineer in town for what I'm guessing is World of Concrete based on the blueprints she's brought with her. I chat her up a bit until I see that she's got a wedding ring on her other hand. We head up to rusty's room where we find a king size bed and a hot tub 5 feet away. You don't even need to leave your bed to drown a hooker if you don't want to. It's Vegas! Rusty says lets go down to the casino and lose some money. We head down to the casino and lose some money at the craps table. This trip is not treating me nicely. I tell him I gotta tap out. Show in the morning.
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