Southern Boy in ChiTown

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Aloha Means Goodbye

I think this is finally it. After two weeks of being very cagy, my Chicago boss (everyone at my company has at the very minimum two bosses, often more) finally announced my departure (within the company and to our customer) two weeks after I'd let him know about the offer and only one week away from my getting the hell out (and only 4 hours away from me getting the hell outta Dodge). No big sendoff for me since hardly anyone actually comes into the office on Fridays in the summer but I did have a chance to say goodbye to a couple of my customers that I have some respect for.

Thursday night was a little poignant - I had too much work to do to spend much time out but I did at least go for a walk along the river and up Michigan a couple of blocks before heading back to the apartment I was borrowing. Frankly I felt like the previous week was really my swan song as I had little time this week to do much other than buy another six pack of Heineken from Bockwinkel's and get back to work every night.

Friday I left the office around 12:30 - missed saying goodbye to the few people that were actually there but if I'd waited for them to come back from lunch I'd have been late getting out to Midway. It was all very, very anticlimactic, but that's been the case as I've left the last two accounts I was associated with, so I supposed that's par.

It's been incredibly nice being home this weekend and actually feeling like I was home. Stopped in at Woody's downtown this afternoon while J was at church and had a long conversation with a fellow techie (much cuter than me) about moving away and coming back home to Chapel Hill and what a relief that is and it's all true. Chicago was an experience that I will take many learnings away from, but I'm glad it's over.

I may post once or twice more from this address but for the most part I think we can stick a fork in it - it's pretty well done. I appreciate all of you that have read and left your comments. Most of you came over from my previous blog that I'm starting to rejuvenate, so I hope you will return to reading me there. If you somehow stumbled across me down another path, pop me a note at and I'll send you the URL of my other blog.

Thanks, y'all - and thanks to Chicago for being livable, fun and a decent place to spend a few months as long as one is on an expense account!


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Finally Some Good News

So I did what I said and camped out in my boss's office this morning until he replied to my damn email about working from NC next week and agreeing to the start date. Of course since then I've heard nothing but veiled threats about how if this doesn't get done or that doesn't get fixed somebody higher up will decide I can't go. Which, if you think about it, really doesn't make sense - if I can't get it fixed, why do you want me to stay? It's like it's some kind of punishment, but in the meantime you've got the guy that failed still there. So I'm believing it's all bluster (or almost all).

On the other hand, I was certainly able to bring some joy to the guys on the new account as I think they were preparing for a longer wait. The timing is perfect for me to be coming on board now, so I gotta make sure nothing messes that up.

Still in ChiHollywood

I mentioned that I was going to be staying in the apartment of a coworker this week. What I didn't anticipate was that it would be stocked with a combination of FHM, Stuff, Maxim and Playboys on the one hand and Sean Hannity and Anne Coulter books on the other. Nice apartment, but dude! Really! I did IM him today and told him I'd be picking up a couple of Al Franken and Michael Moore books to supplement his collection.

It is a nice apartment, though. Similar in layout to the one I had a few blocks north but the furnishings are a little nicer and dude! DishTV!! Although last night that just meant 250 channels with nothing worth watching. The view sucks in comparison - while I can see a bit of the river (and the lake if I lean way out over the balcony) it mostly overlooks a contstruction site for yet another condo highrise.

I'm stressed to the point now of physical discomfort - actually got sick to my stomach today. I can't seem to get a final answer on a start date for the new gig - there's a lot of gameplaying going on that has me really pissed off by now. The answer today I think is to just camp out in my boss' office until I get a straight answer. I'm sure he thinks by now that he's given me one, but he absolutely has not.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Victim of My Own Success

I've apparently managed to piss off the executives over me, my current customer, and I'm afraid the guys trying to hire me. There are threats to block me from moving to the new account (I use the word "escape") which is really ticking me off. Probably more likely is an insistence that I stay around here so long that I become less palatable to the hiring account.

I suppose I could look at this as an affirmation of what a hellacious guy I am, but I think what is more likely is a feeling like "he doesn't suck quite as much as the people who were here before him" among those that care.

I have little (some, but little) doubt that this'll all work out, but it's making it damn tough to concentrate. Back next week for sure, staying at at corp apartment right next to the Aon Center that one of my fellow North Carolinians has that he isn't using. Maybe that really will be the last trip.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Same Time, Next Week

It looks like my hope that this would be my last week up here has already been proven false - I got informed last week that my presence is required for a review - all week. I immediately pulled up the travel website to book a hotel and found that the best I could do was a $400/night room at the Hyatt. But luckily one of the guys that has an apartment up here is out of town next week, so I'm okay. Except that I'll be in Chicago when I really want to be home.

By The Time I Get to Kimpton, I'll Be Hungry

Good thing there are number of Kimpton hotels in this area of Chicago - I seem determined to only eat dinner at them this week but I shouldn't starve. Had a nice meal at South Water Kitchen at the Hotel Monaco last night and a really good dinner at the Atwood Cafe, sitting outside on the sidewalk in front of the Hotel Burnham, in the historic Reliance Building. With only one Kimpton hotel uneaten-at so far I was a little concerned that I might get hungry by Friday, but the waiter pointed out that the Hotel Allegro has both a restaurant and a bar that serves food, so I should be able to survive.

Monday, July 17, 2006

This Will Be The Last Time.... Maybe

Back in Chicago just in time for near-record heat and the VII Gay Games. Took the 6:30am flight up from RDU, which gets me to the office in the Aon Center by around 8am. Talked to both of my bosses about the new opportunity (oh, and I accepted the new position) but I still don't have an official transfer date (I'm shooting for 8/7) or anyone at this point to turn things over to. I should be working tonight but I'm way, way too tired.

Left the office around 6 to walk over to the Palmer House hotel, which normally would feel like a short walk but today felt like 10 miles. I was soaked to the skin by the time I got there (the heat index is still 99 degrees at almost 10 CDT). Walked into the lobby to find a couple of football player-sized guys practicing their cheers and quickly remembered that the Gay Games started last weekend - I may be the only straight guy in this hotel that is not an employee. The Gay Games thing might make it hard for me to get in a run down LakeShore this week, except that it appears that most of the events there are either over or very early in the morning.

So I'm back - but I still need someone to turn stuff over to or I'll be back up here next week too.

Friday, July 14, 2006

The End is Near

Friday night... sitting on the back porch with the laptop, a belly full of high octane beer and a football-size burrito from Margaret's Cantina. And a job offer from another division of the company...

I mentioned a few weeks ago that there might be a change coming. Someone I worked for a couple of years ago was keeping his eye out for me after the last account I was with went away and gave my name out to a local Fed account who actually had a very interesting position open. One that plays to my strengths. One that could very well have been written specifically with me in mind. One that would get me back into a more technology-oriented job. So I bit, interviewed, got called back, got called back again, got told I was on a short list of 2 (after they'd talked to 20 people), did lunch and was finally told mid-week this week that I was going to get an offer.

Which didn't come late Wednesday. Which didn't come Thursday. Which didn't come Friday morning. So I e-mailed the main contact (no one in my company works for just one person) and let her know I hadn't heard anything. Nothing.

But I was still in my home office hanging out after work when the phone rang just before 6. Apparently all the information on the offer was correct except for my email address. So somewhere in the company some cat with a name similar to mine is wondering why he's gotten an offer for a job he didn't apply for. :-D

So I finally got the offer informally late today. And called my current boss, which was one of the most difficult things I've ever done as he is a decent, hardworking, fair and very desperate man - he is struggling with what he's been asked to do (ANYBODY would be struggling with what he's been asked to do) and I know he's been depending on me to help carry us through. And now I'm bailing.

But I refuse to feel guilty - I've been in the position (if not this specific account) for two years now and frankly my technical knowledge has really started to get dated. I haven't been hands-on technical for awhile but I've at least been able to keep up with the technology at some level - not the last 24 months. So I have no question in my mind that this is the right career move for me and I'll just have to do what I can to ease the transition for my successor, whoever that ends up being.

So the end is near for Southern Boy in ChiTown, although it is not quite here. I'm heading back to the city early (EARLY) Monday morning (staying at the Palmer House, which should be interesting) and I wouldn't be surprised if I didn't go back up at least once more for transition, although I plan to avoid that if possible. Lady J is already compiling a list of stuff she's going to want me to pick up and either bring back or ship back for her. I keep telling her that now that we're comfortable there we'll probably go back for a long weekend from time to time but she doesn't think so. She may be right - the Fed job makes it more likely that we'll be doing the DC thing from time to time and since we were married in Rockville MD and spent the first part of our time together in the metro area, there's a real appeal to that.

If you came here from my previous blog, which most of you did, I plan on cranking it back up this weekend so please go check it out! If you didn't, feel free to email me at chitownsoboyatyahoodotcom and I'll send you the link. I expect to keep posting here too though for another 3 weeks or so.


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

You Take The Long Way Home - The Last Miles

If you're reading this first - stop! Go on down a few posts and start from the beginning...

Not much more to say. I made it through Virginia without stopping - dropped off of I-77 in Mount Airy for a T-Bell break and drove on home. By that time I'd driven right at 1,000 miles in less than 36 clock hours and about 17 hours in the car. I still had to dump everything out into the living room and drive out to the airport, drop the car off, take the shuttle to the terminal, wait in 97 degree heat for the park-n-ride shuttle than drive my XTerra the hell home.

Damn it's good to be here!

You Take The Long Way Home - Almost Heaven?

Couple more pictures of Point Pleasant before I headed on towards Charleston and I-77. I'd never been to West Virginia before. It was pretty I guess - the parts I saw. I did get a bit tired of paying a $1.25 toll every 12 miles or so. I know Lady J has a lot of fond memories of WV and I'm sure we're going to get there together some day but it's not at the top of my list.

Photo 1: The State in Point Pleasant - the movie poster on the left is The Beast in the Haunted Cave - a Roger Corman POS that we actually have a copy of

Photo 2: The poster on the RIGHT side of the State.

Photo 3: The pretty part of West Virginia

You Take The Long Way Home - Mothman Lives!

After my tour of Gallipolis, I drove on across the Ohio into Point Pleasant across the replacement for the Silver Bridge. After cruising around a bit, I pulled over to Main Street and parked for a bit to walk around (as it turned out, I was parked where the original bridge had come into Point Pleasant). I'm not going to go over the whole Mothman phenomenon - either you've seen The Mothman Prophecies or you can check out a number of web sites.

I wonder what the townspeople, many of whom would have lost family and friends when the Silver Bridge collapsed in 1967, think about the whole Mothman thing - I could see them feeling like it takes away from that tragedy, but with a Mothman statue right off of Main Street, clearly a large number of people in the town have embraced the legend.

Photo 1: The statue of the Mothman, 4th Street/Main Street in Point Pleasant

Photo 2: The Mothman Museum, storefront in the Lowe Hotel building

Photo 3: The Lowe Hotel (Richard Gere's stopover in the movie)

Photo 4: The replacement for the Silver Bridge, beyond the new riverside park

You Take The Long Way Home - Small Town 4th

I got off Interstate (happy 50th birthday to the Interstate system, by the way) just past Richmond and onto US 35. I realized not long after that that I was almost out of gas and there seemed to be a good chance as I rolled past farmland that I wasn't going to find a station in time. I did finally get into a station just outside of Eaton, Ohio about the time that I realied that 35 was closed going through town. I figured it was just road construction but when I somehow lost the detour and ended up going through town on the north-south main drag, I realized that Main Street was closed for a town festival, including an amazing number of classic cars restored faithfully, turned into hot rods or low-riders or just driven as they were.

Other than an odd detour around Dayton, the rest of the drive to the Ohio River was pretty unremarkable. Took US 35 through Chillicothe down to Gallipolis, where I had a Holiday Inn room waiting for me. About halfway through the drive I started worrying that I wouldn't be able to make it that far, but I actually got there about half an hour before my original schedule - in time to go find a Subway and a six-pack of Sierra Nevada (SN is perfect for road trips - excellent pale ale but it also has a twist top) and watch most of Jurassic Park before falling asleep in the chair in front of Lake Placid.

Sunday morning I left early enough to drive down Highway 7 along the Ohio River past all the fast food joints and body shops to Gallipolis proper. They were preparing the town park for a craft fair/4th of July celebration complete with amusement park rides.

I love small towns, but I know myself well enough to know that there are only a few that I would really want to live in. Chapel Hill of course, Blowing Rock and Manteo for sure, but beyond that there aren't many. But I love the architecture and the feel of a small town on the weekends - great photo ops!

Photo 1: Custom cars along Main Street in Eaton, Ohio

Photo 2: The Chevy BelAir's for you, Dad!

Photo 3: Downtown Gallipolis, Ohio

You Take The Long Way Home - Getting Started

I got started Saturday by taking the train out to Midway to pick up the rental to drive back to NC. For all the times I'd ridden the train in Chicago, it had always been on the Red Line and furthermore on the underground part, so this was the first (only?) time I'd been on the platform in the Loop. With the clacking of the tracks and the architecture of the awning over the platform, it felt like being in an amusement park! When I got on, I kept expecting the train to slowly go up a rise and then zoom down and around a curve like a roller coaster.

I took care of business at the Alamo counter in the Midway terminal and took the shuttle out to the lot. Given a choice between a Chevy Trailblazer and a Jeep Grand Cherokee, I took the Jeep since I'd never driven one before. As I headed back up the Stevenson toward town, I checked out the back of the car through the rear view mirror, thought about the stack of boxes and luggage waiting back at the apartment and started getting very, very nervous about how much space I had. Nervous enough that I called Lady J and woke her up to check the weather on the route ahead in case I had to tie some stuff to the roof. But after getting to the apartment building I folded the back seats down and brought the first load down and realized that I was going to be fine. I went back up for the final load, took one last look around the apartment, gave it a wave and headed back out I-55.

I had my digital camera on the seat next to me to take pictures of anything that seemed interesting. Note that you see no pictures of Illiois or Indiana... :-D Traffic getting around Chicago to Indiana was horrendous, the monotony broken up only by the billboards for Kaplan's fireworks every 50 feet. Once I got to I-65 and headed down towards Indianapolis, things opened up quite a bit. Actually everything was pretty uneventful and I don't remember even stopping until outside of Richmond, Indiana for gas.

On to Ohio...