The Other End of Sunset

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The wolf by the pale moonlight

She was married when we first met
Soon to be divorced
Helped her out of a jam I guess
But I used a little too much force
--Bob Dylan

Hi all, how are you? It's the holiday season, for many major religions, and some minor ones too. I'm in South Africa. Not on a plane, but I'll share some travel stories with you, just for kicks.

SL and I are spending Christmas here. She's going away for a few months just after New Year's, so we decided to go have some time to ourselves before she leaves. I'll miss her. And at the moment, I miss my dogs, a lot. So many changes after Jeanne died. But one of them is a (probably) unhealthy attachment to my dogs.

When SL and I both travel, usually they stay at a boarding kennel. Which is nicer than my company's approved hotel in LA. It is to "kennels" as the Betty Ford Center is to the YMCA. But regardless, they don't like it there after about a week. They get to play with lots of dogs, and hang out together, but after 7 or 10 days, Minnie (my Dalmatian) starts getting really depressed.

When she's depressed it takes her a few days being home to be herself again. It's sad -- she glues herself to me, like I'm going to vanish like a dog treat in a dream. And she doesn't play. It's sad to watch.

This trip is long -- they are going to be in Doggie Shangri-La for 13 days.

On the fourteenth day, one of my doggie nannies is going to pick them up, and take them home. She will then stay in our house for a few days until we get home. I'm hoping that Minnie will start perking up with the doggie nanny, and then when we get home, she will be almost normal.

Don't get me wrong, she will still sulk some and punish me for leaving. But I'm hoping the punishment will be less.

I'd give a lot to have her curled up next to me right now, with Brown Dog sitting on the floor a few feet away, guarding the door.

I've been in South Africa now for roughly three days. I'm pretty jet lagged, surprisingly so, actually. Either I'm getting old, or the fact that I also have a KILLER cold is interfering with my usual adaptation rate.

I know you don't love that guy
you make it with, now do you?
I know you don't love that guy
'cause I can see right through you

We left the Bay Area for Washington Dulles Friday morning. We had a short layover in Dulles before embarking on a 15 hour flight from Dulles to Johannesburg. Apparently, however, our bags decided not to take our flight. So, we landed in Jo'burg, dirty, slightly disheveled, and high on caffeine only to find that our luggage had remained in Washington. Or perhaps hadn't left San Francisco. Or perhaps had been sent somewhere else by South African Airlines.

And, most of all, we discovered that nobody cared. There were probably 20 couples whose baggage got lost, and there was a complete lack of concern from the airlines. Truly, nobody cared. We lemming-ed ourselves into the queue, and waited our turn to see the grumpy guy at the front. When we got there, and started talking to him, his cell phone rang... and he stopped helping us to chat with his girlfriend.

Nice. Thanks for that.

Anyway, eventually we got our form, and our magic number, and were told to go jump in a lake, the baggage will show up. Sometime.

Great, except we were only staying in Jo'burg for about 36 hours. And then headed to Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve (next to Krueger Park). In the middle of nowhere. So, if our bags didn't make it, we were really in trouble. The next day came... and went... with no bags.

I thought SL was going to have a meltdown -- she was really upset about having no clothes. And also some of my meds were in my checked bag, so I was also skating away on the thin ice of a new day.

Last night -- I guess that was Sunday night -- we called our travel agent and asked for his help. He jumped on it, and the next morning they had found my bag. Nice, but not a complete solution. Dare I say, their solution was necessary but not sufficient! We went to the airport to grab my bag, hoping SL's would be there too. It wasn't. SL literally started crying -- jet lag wears out her emotions too -- which actually moved the South African Airways security person to help her. They found her bag, in a different terminal in a pile of other irrelevant baggage.

It was a win, in the end, but good lord it took a lot of effort. We have already decided that we are going to carry most of our critical stuff with us on the flight home -- we have a complex set of connections, and I can already see another baggage-lost-saga. We have too much stuff (after presents) to carry it all, I think, but we'll give it the old college try. We'll check only stuff that can be a few days later.

I have traveled hundreds of times. I have only once before had a bag not make my flight (on Singapore Airlines), and it was corrected 6 hours later. Not quite this experience. Somehow, I know that I am not in Kansas anymore here.

TIA, Bru
--Leonardo DiCaprio


We stayed in Jo'burg at a terrific hotel -- the Saxon, in Sandton. SL had called in advance and told them I have Celiac, and explained to them what that meant, and the like. All those interactions I hate, she did. You know what? They baked gluten free bread for me the first night in the hotel. Wild. And the waiter carefully walked me through my options for gluten-free food on the menu, telling me how the chef was going to modify this or that, etc. I was so happy! It actually wasn't embarrassing to have to describe my illness.

Way to go, SL. One of the things I was worried about on this trip was spending the entire time ill -- like the last time I was in China -- taking seizure medicine by the handful and doing my best to keep my sanity together. Nope, not this trip -- she's got it covered. Cool!

But you know what's weird? The Saxon's background music was Enya -- just like the place SL and I went in Mexico last year. I think it's a conspiracy. Enya is taking over the world. Or something. But why? What is her infernal purpose? What subliminal evil is captured in those tracks? Is there, somewhere, a sleeper cell of Enya terrorists? Or, worse, are we all being programmed to explode into spontaneous RiverDance at some point in the future? Stranger things have happened.

OK, I can't think of one right now, but they have. Trust me. And, apropos of nothing at all, there is a Springbok skull and horns mounted over the fireplace in my room. Complete with horns. But it might be an Eland, now that I look at the horns (dark and twisted).

But, really, isn't it wrong to have a skull mounted at a conservation resort? Perhaps the skull is the Enya symbol, the secret handshake, and the truth about the Masons is encoded in the nasal ridges.

Or, perhaps, I need some sleep as well. We shall see, I guess.

All the King's men reappear
For Eggman, falling off a wall
Never be together again
--Counting Crows

I find myself intrigued by coincidences. Have you ever noticed that lots of events, when viewed in hindsight, seem unsurprising, because there were so many chances for them to happen.

What am I talking about? Good question.

In a much earlier life, I lived in Chicago. Well, Skokie, actually, but work with me here, it's more or less Chicago. Jeanne lived in Chicago as well at the same time. She lived in the Loop, downtown, but commuted each day to Saint Charles, where the (then) Andersen training center was. She loved music. She sang in a band made up of other Andersen folks (her favorites were Pretenders covers), and went out to clubs a lot. Especially a club that alternated between pop-like stuff and industrial type stuff. There were these boxes on the corners of the dance floor, and Jeanne would get drunk and get on them and dance. The bar was called something like "Crowbar".

// Side note -- I believe there is a "Crowbar" in every city in America. I think every bar owner thinks the name funny. It's not. Each one is different -- in Chicago, it was (at the time, anyway) an interesting dance club. In SF, it's quite different. But regardless, the pun is not that compelling. Sorry. //

What is so interesting about Crowbar? Well, I shall tell you, just now. I also spent a lot of time in Crowbar, often paying an inordinate amount of attention to the women dancing on those side box-like things. I don't remember seeing her, but...

Interesting to think we could have met 10 years before we did.

But wait, it gets better!

A few years later on in her Andersen career, Jeanne did a consulting job for the Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), and taught a few classes at their Battle Command Training School. Battle Command training is for folks who are about to be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and is located at lovely Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Fort Leavenworth is a bit of a pit, in my humble opinion. There are lots of churches, strip clubs, tattoo parlors, and a place that sells guns, ammo, and office supplies. Truly a fascinating place.

But wait, Douglas, how do you know such facts about a little town just West of Kansas City? I know, because, at the same time Jeanne was teaching classes, I was at RAND, also doing work for TRADOC. I was studying high-performing Army units, and spending about every other week in Fort Leavenworth. I am sure we ran into each other at some point during that period, although neither of us remembers it.

Interesting, again, to think that I could have met Jeanne 6 years before I did.

But wait, there's still more! I was at Price Waterhouse for a while, in the security part of their audit practice. I did a couple of security reviews for companies in San Diego, including one company with an odd business model related to mail-order medical supplies. I only took one meeting at that particular client (a "close meeting"), and was completely unimpressed by the client management. Only two people stood out to me. One was the CEO, the other was some kind of HR guy.

At that point, in the late 90's, Jeanne was living in San Diego, married to an HR guy, who worked at... you guessed it... a medical mail order company.

Yup, I met Jeanne's then-husband and was underwhelmed.

Finally, a couple of years later, Jeanne was separated from that guy and took a job working for her old friend in San Francisco. At Schwab. And she and I finally met.

Makes you wonder if someone wanted me to meet Jeanne, and was, perhaps, getting annoyed that it was taking so darn long for us to figure it out.

If so, thank you to whatever that was.

There are other coincidences in my life. For example, I once did consulting for the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Yes, I know, the RIAA are the bad guys, but I took their money. For such sins, I hope that I shall be forgiven. Anyway.

At the time I did this consulting gig, SL was working for a small PR firm in Portland. This small firm had quite a few tech clients, but had one odd client. Yup, you guessed it, the RIAA. I had a couple of meetings at the PR firm. She did some work for the RIAA account, and sat in a few meetings that I could have been in. I don't recall meeting SL, she doesn't recall seeing me, but ... don't you wonder? I do.

And there are still more coincidences. For example, whenever I go on vacation, I am always ill. I'm still sick, today, and I am REALLY tired of it. In the cases of JR and SL, I'm grateful for the repeated chances. In the case of this yucky cold, I'd just as soon stop it, already.

In the end
Only kindness matters

SL liked my last post a lot, and I got some good feedback on it. Apparently it was a throwback to my earlier posting style. Before I started using the blog as a way to draw that agony out of my soul like some medieval doctor with his leech. I go back and I read those postings and they are more flip, less intense, and far less likely to make anybody cry.

I still miss her, every day. I still think about her. I still tell all the stories I can fit into any conversation. Yes, it's true, I still love Jeanne. But I think she'd be tired of me posting only about death and sadness. I think writing all those posts helped me heal. A lot. Thank you to all who helped me help myself. But perhaps I'll stay on this somewhat more flippant tack for a while, let the wind fill my sails, and look for adventures.

I have seen the word and all its wonders
But there's no place like London
--Sweeney Todd