La-la land

I’m in America !   Los Angeles to be precise (LAX airport)

Sitting in a food court lounge, and nabbing free wireless from “LAX OneWorld Lounge”.   I’m not actually a Qantas club member or anything – but free wireless is free wireless !

I’m only in Los Angeles for a few hours, before flying off to Denver, Colorado.  I’ll be attending the K2 Insider conference, covering some new & exiting features for K2[blackpearl] – as well as deep-dive training – and meet & greet with other K2 Insiders.

As I was sitting on the plane trying to sleep (it’s now 3.00 am according to my laptop+body-clock), I was thinking about the last time I was in America.

Warning – nostalgia and rambling tales ahead.   Click “Mark As Read” now !

The last time I was in “the states” was in 1994, on a work trip to New Orleans.  A lot has changed since then – I’m no longer based in Cairns (Nth Qld) – and am now married with kids. 

Also – Sept-11 has since happened & changed international travel (+fear) – and New Orleans doesn’t exist anymore (well – not like it was).

This was pre-internet (WWW) days, lots of Telnet’ing and FTP’ing – no mobile phones, and hadn’t even see Visual Basic yet – let alone ASP, or .NET and C#.

Crater Software was a small (30-person) consulting company located in Cairns, we were the provider of services to a laaarge mining company located in Irian Jaya (the western part of Papua New Guinea).  

Freeport-McMoran had their head office in New Orleans – and I was lucky enough to get a trip to work with the accounting bod’s there.

Was a week or two after Kurt Cobain died (April 8th, 1994) – so I collected lots of magazine & newspaper articles while there – and considered a side-trip to Seattle also – but decided on San Fran instead (more of that to follow…)

Was a whirlwind for me – I was only 21, flying business class, staying in a fancy hotel overlooking the Mississippi (The Westin Canal), and out to Bourbon St & French Quarter in the evening.  

I actually turned 22 while there, amid drinks such as Hurricanes and Kamikazes – and ended up singing “I come from a land down under” at a Karaoke pub with another Aussie I was working/travelling with.

We did some sight-seeing stuff, like the SuperDome, and French Quarter – and went to a baseball game also.  They game itself was pretty boring, but interesting people-watching – kids especially, and how the “American culture” begins at a young age.

We went to JazzFest too – which is a 3-4 day “Big Day Out” style event, with lots of tents, and singers – the negro spiritual singers (mostly kids & teens) had an amazing sound, chills up the spine almost.

Lots of Jazz & Brass bands – and beers everywhere.   Although it was Budweiser and Miller – aka “sex in a canoe” brand (a PM nickname for “fucking close to water”

We were pretty rowdy in the bus back to the hotel, singing Rodney Rude and Kevin Bloody Wilson songs – and generally behaving as drunk/happy Aussie’s are supposed to do (and made a lot of friends !)

Spent nearly three weeks in New Orleans, lots of meetings, and some development work/installation (Unix + 4GL – I was the lackie junior developer, with a Business Analyst/Programmer)

My trip was to take in a few days in San Francisco, before down to L.A. and another day of fun.   I was flying from New Orleans to San Fran, via Dallas – on my own for the first time in that trip (first time EVER internationally).

The trip turned a bit sour when I had my wallet stolen – from the security check-thru line.   I’d just put everything in the boxes for the metal detector, and grabbed everything except my wallet – and when I turned back to get it, was gone.

Pretty panicked and scared, I had some brown coins – and a passport.   No credit card, or cash – and angry too !   (I remember firing up the new Pantera album “Far Beyond Driven” – and grinding my teeth in the waiting lounge).

I still get nervous and panicky at those security check throughs – even now.

When I arrived in San Fran, I had to work out how to get to the hotel, with some ca$h promised at the check-in desk (after frantic calls to office in Cairns).

I had a nervous cab ride, knowing I had zero money – in a strange city, alone – and hoping there WOULD be $$ waiting at the hotel for me !  

All worked out OK, my boss from Cairns had rung to pay for my hotel, and arrange for some advance cash, and I could sight-see in San Fran, and fly down to L.A. for replacement credit card.

I still remember the peace and tranquility of the Buddhist garden in San Fran – was sooo nice to have a breather and de-stress after a tough 24 hours.   My bus tour went across the Golden Gate bridge, and a boat tour on the harbour.  

I saw a sign for Pantera+Anthrax live – woulda been an amazing show, but I was 3 days too early – and had to get to L.A. (no money otherwise !)

When I got to L.A. I had another problem – I was out of cash, but finally had a visa card (was waiting at the hotel).    I took a cab to the bank, and said wait for me – while I went into the bank.   I then realised my only “ID” was my passport – which was in the room safe at the hotel – I had to take the cab BACK to the hotel – and then return to the bank !

Jeez – with the lost cash from my wallet, and cab rides, etc – I reckon I ended up losing about $300.    😦

I met up with my other work mate – and we had a great time in L.A., we went to the Hard Rock Cafe – saw Dan Ackroyd – went to a stuid taping of the TV show, tour of Hollywood homes and general sites – lots of fun.

We went to Six Flags Magic Mountain for roller coaster rides, but it was Scouts & Guides day – so lots of people EVERYWHERE.  

We ended up going on only FOUR rides for the whole day !   But – we bought BIG 40-ounce Coke cups, and added our bourbon while in the 2+ hour queues.

When we got to LAX (where I am NOW !) we were half-tanked, sun-burnt, unshaven and sweaty.   And – we had business class tickets !!   

The security guard thought we were skipping the economy line, and asked to see our tickets – and then quickly said “terribly sorry sir, right this way”.

We were then told that business class was overbooked (ie. FULL) – and we thought “oh no !!” – but – they upgraded us to 1st class !    We grabbed our tickets and went to sit in the Qantas club lounge, and waited to the call to board the plane.

My buddy said “they always call the flight twice” – so we finished our drinks, and wandered towards the gate lounge.   We then heard an announcement – “could passengers O’Connor and Bonnell please make their way to gate 44, as their plane is waiting to depart”.

We RAN to the plane, and they closed the door behind us !    Oops – sorry to 400+ people that we kept waiting !

We were in the 2nd row of the plane – underneath the pilot – and had these huuuuge seats.   Electronic foot rests and head rests – like a seat in Gold Class (Village).   I couldn’t even reach the seat in front when fully reclined.

Just amazing in 1st class – made up for losing my wallet !    (karma ?)

I asked for a Bourbon & Coke (general drinking theme in those days) – and the stewardess asked “would you like Jim Beam, Jack Daniels or Wild Turkey ?!”

We were 22 – and sipping Cognac after dinner.   Today’s flight makes me realise how good I’d had it back then !

During the “night hours” when everyone is asleep, I asked if I could go up top – and went to look into the cockpit.   I chatted to the pilot, while looking out the front windows of the plane, at the clouds as far as you could see – below us, and bright/burnt orange – like a sunset, but underneath.

Amazing scene – and would NEVER be able to do that again.

So – all-in-all, an amazing trip – and some great memories from last time I was in America.  

This trip has only just begun – will be skiing tomorrow (another first) – and then the K2 conference.

I might go grab some McDonalds now – seems like the thing to do.   (when in Rome ?)

and then to the lounge before flight to Denver.


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