Sunday, July 6, 2014

Summerfest Haters, Stop It Already

I'll never understand Summerfest haters. Oh sure, it's a lousy place to see a band you enjoy, a tad spendy if you're the drinking type and parking can be a bitch, but if you adapt and do it right, It's an absolute joy.

We went down yesterday afternoon with no plan but to enjoy our long-awaited Summer and discover something new. It didn't take long! We were immediately captivated and drawn in to an energetic, young band out of Charleston, South Carolina--Stop Light Observations. Not certain we'd like a whole album of their songs, but they sure put on a great live show! Next we made it over the KNE New Music Stage where my first encounter with Madison's Lords of the Trident "The Most METAL Band on Earth!" was to be slashed in the belly by the leather-clad lead singer's plastic cleaver. For the next twenty minutes we were highly entertained by cheese-metal madness--Lords of the Trident rock hard with humor and energy. Too fun!

Lastly we ambled over to the Harley Davidson stage where we were delighted by Milwaukee's own Naima Adedapo. I did not have high expectations, but wow, she put on a great show! Her Summerfest story is compelling: as a youth, she was a grounds crew worker sweeping up garbage and cleaning toilets. She took a moment to ask us to say "thanks" to the blue-shirted crew when we spot them on the grounds. It kind of put a lump in my throat, but that was nothing compared to her most excellent finale: performing with the Ko~Thi Dance Company for which she has been involved since she was a youth. It was fantastic. She'll be performing at Tosa Tonight on August 27th. I highly recommend attending this show!

Naima's show ended right around 9 o'clock. Summerfest's witching hour, the time when all the drunk crazies enter the grounds to see the headlining acts. Now this part I can agree with the haters--Summerfest is the WORST place to see a band you like. Knowing this, we left the park, beat the traffic insanity and were back home in Wauwatosa early enough to enjoy a nightcap and get a good night's rest.

Kay and Bobby Friss
We are very lucky to have this festival in Milwaukee. Next year, when the schedule rolls out, look at it and grumble (everybody grumbles, "Hmph. There's no good bands.") and then throw it in the trash. Instead, go to the fest in the afternoon and let your ears do the walking. Without question, you'll find something rapture worthy. Whether it be a cover band that absolutely nails it (related: Bobby Friss) or a band out of Butternut, Wisconsin making compelling original music (Hello, Hugh Bob!), Summerfest is truly Milwaukee's shining star of music.

Enjoy it.

Now some music...

Stop Light Observations

Naima Adedapo

Lords of the Trident "The Most METAL Band on Earth!"

Bobby Friss nailing Stranglehold

"Blame Me" Hugh Bob and the Hustle

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What's In My Beer, Steamworks Brew Pub?

Me and my colleague's entire "tour" of Vancouver, B.C. yesterday consisted of three pub visits and a nice walk along Water and Alexander Streets in the area known as Gastown. Everywhere we visited was quite nice and we certainly wished we could have spent a bit more time there ... maybe even next time with our wives.

Fortunately, one of our stops left an indelible impression on my tastebuds--and it wasn't the highly rated and deservedly so gastropub Alibi Room, with their delicious food and 50 draft beers (though we enjoyed our visit there plenty). No, the place we stopped first, Steamworks Brew Pub, left an unerasable trail of hops and jalapeño right down my throat to my heart.

After a day of travel; authentic, awful, and authentically awful Canadian/Chinese cheeseburgers; and an intense 2-hour meeting that surpassed 3 hours, a cold beer was exactly what we had on our minds. We set our GPS to downtown Vancouver and hoped that this would be the place that we would find our beer.

It was.

When we spied Steamworks Brew Pub's sign, we found the nearest parking ramp and proceeded to make our way their. They had a wide selection of draft beers on their regular menu, but there were two that were off the menu. One was described as "Belgian style with a sweet start and spicy finish. Like what you'd like on a good date!"

"Set my up with that one," I said. "That sounds like something I'd like to try."

Upon first sip, I thought it tasted like a more potent version of Wisconsin's own Spotted Cow. I liked it well enough, though I admit, it would've been hard for any beer to not to have tasted good after that marathon meeting. But by the time I got 8 ounces into my true pint glass pint, I noticed a pleasant back-of-throat burn, like the kind I enjoy in a spicy bowl of phở. "Where was that coming from?" I asked. There was no presence of jalapeño taste when the beer was in my mouth, but no matter, I dug the burn!

I wonder what they did to make the beer impart that heat? That's a pretty powerful combo--the more you drink, the more the burn, the more the burn, the more you drink!

Sly devils, you Steamworks Brewers you, but I commend your efforts. I want to return soon for more of that delectable burn!!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Conversations in Bogotá

Here's an example of conversation that happens at least 10 times per day here in Bogotá:

Me: Please ask the driver how many kilometers it is to the hotel.

Translator: "Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo. Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem quia voluptas sit aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt. Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem. Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur? Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit qui in ea voluptate velit esse quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum qui dolorem eum fugiat quo voluptas nulla pariatur?"

Driver: Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem. Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur.

Me: What did he say?

Translator: He says it's raining.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Hellloooo, Karma

It's my lucky day. Upgraded to first class, Sky Priority for my flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

What a treat, but it also makes no sense. My boss, a Delta platinum card holder with over a million miles in his account, is stuck back in the cramped and crowded seats of coach. 

*** Please excuse this brief pause. The attendant is here to take my in-flight dinner order. (The roasted chicken with morel mushroom sauce sounds lovely. I'll have that. Thank you.) ***

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, I talking about my upgrade to to first class. What a surprise. I wonder if our travel booker messed something up?

Or maybe it's karma. Yes, of course. Karma. I'll go with that. 

Remember a few weeks back when I posted about accidentally leaving a baggage loader a $50 tip? I was in Bogota, Colombia and I mistook two $50,000 peso notes for $50 peso notes. Later, when I looked for my pesos, I couldn't figure out where all of them went. Only upon Wikipedia-ing Colombian currency did I discover that the 50,000 note drops the triple zeroes and adds "mil" in the zeroes' place. 

Lesson learned. Always study the currency and the exchange rate before traveling to a foreign country. 

Someone who read my blog post replied, "It's karma. Something good will happen to you soon because of this."

So this MUST be it, right? My $50 tip has resulted in leveraged karma of an approximately $1500 seat upgrade! (I'm guessing, but coach to first class must be at least that much, don't you think?)

*** Please excuse another short break, the attendant has returned for my drink order. (Wine, champagne, orange juice or a Heineken? Hmm, good choices all. I think I'll go with the champagne. After all, I only ate breakfast an hour ago! *slaps knee* *laughs out loud* *The attendant says, "Good one, Mr. Collins!"*) ***

Or if not karma, maybe just the Almighty is showering her good graces upon me for the all the hardships I've lately endured. 

Oh sure, those of you who follow me know that I've been jet-setting around the globe this past month. Mexico, Colombia, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, England.  You're probably thinking, "Hardship? What the hell is Collins talking about?! That guy's one of the luckiest stiffs I know, traveling all around the globe like that." But the truth is, these trips have been for work. In fact, they ARE work. You don't see the meetings and the countless hours spent traveling and waiting and the stress. 

The stress. Oh, yes. So, so much stress. 

But another hardship is damage to my health. On my fourth day in Saudi Arabia, strong winds rolled in and blew fine grains of sand dust into the air. Everywhere there was an auburn fog. At one point, I inhaled and the dust entered my lungs. Since that moment, my body wants it out. I've been a coughing, sneezing, phlegm producing machine for 5 days. My nose is raw from the fibers of coarse hotel tissue paper and airport towelettes. I excuse myself constantly for fear that I'll soon look like a 3-year sledding in January, with nose slime running down over my lips and no mom present to wipe it away. Eww gross, right?

Or maybe it's compensation for so many terrible and smelly flights. There was that first flight, albeit a short one between Milwaukee and a Detroit, where an older gentleman who was no longer mobile (poor fellow) urinated in the seat next to me. The smell was so piercing and acidic that I could not breathe. And I can't forget the Riyadh to Dubai leg--another smelly affair. The person next to me smelled like a combination of curry and body odor covered up by a sickeningly sweet rosewater-type perfume. Horrific. I adjusted the air jet to shear the air just in front of my face to attempt to minimize the putrid stench. Lastly, the crying babies. There's always at least one, but on the Dubai to Manchester stint, a chorus of screaming cherubs filled the cabin space for all of eight hours. My head was about to explode by the time we landed. 

So I'll take this seat with no guilt. Nope, none at all. I deserve it.  It's mine and it's time. I'm large and in charge. I'm a man with a plan. No one can stop me. 

Oh look. Here comes the flight attendant again. I bet he's bringing me a steaming hot towel so that I may refresh myself before we take off. 

What's that, mister flight attendant? There's been a mix-up? This is supposed to be my boss's seat? Okay, okay. I'll head back now, but may I please at least finish my champagne? No? Sorry, sorry. No need to get all pushy and stuff. I hear ya. I'm going now. Sheesh. You sure are a crabby one. 

Nevermind. You remember that saying about karma? It's true. 

Karma is a bitch indeed. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

One Week Sans Beer in the Kingdom

Day 7.

My throat burns. My eyes feel like a teaspoon of Aluminum Silicate have been placed under each eyelid. Digestively, I'm a mess--man wasn't designed to wash down pizza with hot tea. My liver ponders its purpose. (Why am I here? What is my duty? I'm unloved. I'm ugly.) My head, it strives for creativity, yet falls short. It cannot disengage from the myriad of pressing work tasks at hand. Coffee, sitting idly by, wonders, "Where is my dear nighttime friend? What have you done to him?! Will I ever see him again? I'm lonely. I am so, so lonely..."

Man, I sure hope I can finally get a beer in Dubai.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Milwaukee to Riyadh, Expressly

Whew. This post is being written from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. I'm not here to visit Paris. No.
I wish. I'm here on a layover.

Milwaukee to Riyadh. What a grueling day of travel.

Get this:

One hour -- Milwaukee to Detroit

Three hours -- Detroit layover

Seven hours -- Detroit to Paris

Three hours -- Paris layover

Six and a half hours -- Paris to Riyadh

Two to three hours -- immigration, customers, get bags, find driver

Two hours -- transport to my accommodations

Total transit time: over 25 hours. Also note ... "accommodations." Not a hotel. Accommodations. I bet I get a good night's rest there.

Writing this, I'm only half-way through and I'm already tired as heck. I can't imagine what I'm going to feel like by the time I get to my destination. Probably like this guy!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Nicely Done, Southwest Airlines

Very cool,  Southwest Airlines. I like what you did there during the flight between Milwaukee and Tampa. 

Traveler William turns 9-years old today. His family is taking him to Disney World. Upon discovering that William's birthday is today, the flight attendants invited him to the cockpit where he meets the pilot and copilot. (This was while the plane was still at the gate in Milwaukee.)

You'd think they'd be done after that, but no, they stepped it up a notch. As we approached Tampa, they asked that those of us with window seats to pull down the shade. They then asked us all to turn on our attendant call lights (birthday candles!) 

The last step was having the entire plane sing Happy Birthday. 

Very sweet. Not only was it nice for William, but it gave me a little faith boost in humanity too. 

Bravo, Southwest. Bravo!