A Travellerspoint blog

Voyage to the Isthmus of Panama Day 1 Again

My mother said there would be cannibals

sunny 35 °C

Day 1 continued with little fanfare. I say this because we were bound to several airplanes for the rest of the day. The first jetted us to the bright lights of lovely Newark New Jersey. I’m not entirely sure why Newark exists, perhaps it’s only due to the overcrowding of the other two nearby airports, JFK and LaGuardia. On the upside, they have a very nice smoking area swathed in grey concrete outside Terminal 2, with a great view of the Statue of Liberty and the Cargill shipping terminal. Honestly, who could ask for more when faced with a 4 hour lay-over. Warmer weather would have been nice, perhaps an outdoor bar, but we were fortunate to have worn our hardiest Arctic expedition gear to face the joy of a January in New Jersey. We were travelers, an expeditionary force with which to be reckoned, and no amount of inclement weather would keep us from our appointed rounds.

Four hours later, we were again birds on the wing. Assuming birds sit in horribly stiff coach seats when they migrate south for the winter. They do not, but we did, because we were intrepid. Panama lay a mere 5 hours down the planet from our current location. Time passed. The movie sucked, but then again, we didn’t buy the headphones so we could actually hear the movie either. It still sucked. We passed the hours playing card games and consuming vast quantities of alcohol, occasionally twitching violently due to a leg or a buttock having fallen fast asleep. This was travel – hours of boredom punctuated by bodily malfunctions. We lived.

The plane touched down at Tocumen International Airport in Panama City shortly after 10 pm local time. The majority of passengers leapt to their feet as soon as the wheels touched the ground, partly out of sheer joy at having survived the flight and partly because they were rude bastards. Please people, don’t get up until the plane has come to a complete stop and the cabin door opens. How hard to understand is this concept? We were more civilized – we stayed in our seats until blood flow returned to our legs. Having survived five hours in an aluminum tube and poor blood circulation, we made for the baggage carrousel. I love waiting for baggage to appear from the plane. Sagas could be written about the temperament of passengers who seem to insist that they are indeed the only people on the planet, and that others only exist to inconvenience them. Fortune would again shine on us, because it was relatively easy to clothesline the elderly and trip up the disabled to get to our bags. The golf jocks were a tad more difficult, but we managed them by asking them inconceivably hard questions like “Do you speak Spanish cabron (cabron meaning something akin to bastard in Spanish)”? “Do you know where the cab stand is Senor Chupacabra?” Golf jocks are such good game. It’s really quite irresistible.

We were able to retrieve our 12 metric tons of baggage in a mere 60 minutes. I was pleased, mostly because we could chalk up 4 elderly, 3 disabled, and 16 golf jocks to our tally of conquests. Now, a more challenging proposal. The sign said, in Spanish and something that might have passed for English in Mississippi, “Do Not Accept Rides From Unlicensed Taxicabs”. Sorry, my Spanish was poor, and my Mississippi even worse. So we strolled out the door into a heat and humidity that can only be described as “OH MY FUCKING GOD”. Yes we had overdressed for the occasion. Upon resuming the all-important task of breathing in and out, and stripping off several layers of winter clothing, we found a car that was more than willing to drive us to our hotel. But first, a smoke. It had been six hours since our last puffs, and now that we were well into our Latin adventure, it was time to light up. There are few things more entertaining in life than watching a desperate smoker take that first puff into winter lungs in a tropical climate. It was, nonetheless, necessary, as we were about to venture into cannibal country (or so my mother told me). Cannibals are notorious for disliking smokers – something about being hard to boil or some such. I read that in our guide book. So we figured better safe than sorry. Plus it was a good rush.

The driver of “the car” that was to ferry us to our hotel was a genial man, though he appeared to be mildly insane. I was taught to drive a stick shift in Mexico on a 1958 Volkswagon Beetle that rattled when the engine was off. I loved that car. You could move the windshield wipers with your hand while driving. This taxi was in somewhat worse shape. The driver, grinning like a cannibal that had just found fresh meat, happily loaded our 12 metric tons of baggage into the trunk. It did not all fit. “No problema”, he happily exclaimed. 10 metric tons went into the trunk, the lid of which was promptly secured with a handy bit of wire conveniently saved for just such an occasion. The other 2 tons sat on our laps in the back seat. Trapped in the back seat, the driver made for town. Our driver…..did I mention that he appeared to be mildly insane?... took great joy in describing the entire route to us in the most curious Spanish-based Mississippi drawl. “Mira aqui, son las ruinas de la Revolution”. “Y aqui, el camino de las touristas qui se mueran por taxi del aeropuerto”. OK, my Spanish wasn’t that good, but I could have sworn he said that this was the spot where tourists died in a taxi from the airport. Panamanian roads, at least from the airport to town, are riddled with potholes that could easily have been created by B-52’s dropping 2000 pound bombs. And our driver took no notice of them whatsoever. They actually appeared to be a challenge for him, much like a brave matador dodging 1500 pounds of angry pot roast. I did manage to keep an eye on the trunk, just in case the wire was insufficient for its task. 45 minutes passed, and just before the car was about to shudder into pieces, we pulled into the hotel. The Continental Hotel Riande stood there, appearing to us as Shangri-La appeared to Ronald Coleman. Our apparently mildly insane driver grinned from ear to ear as he deftly unloaded our goods. This alone was worth a big tip. The Bellman scoffed slightly at our driver while smilingly grandly at us. Bigger tip for the driver. He deserved such, as not only did he appear mildly insane, but he was also an unlicensed cabbie who began our adventure into cannibal land with a flourish. Gracias Senor, y mucho gusto. The Bellman whisked us to the front desk, where we were checked into our room with the utmost kindness. Peeling off the remaining 12 layers of winter clothing, we smiled, mostly because the room was air conditioned. And the bar was still open. It was 1 am when we gladly slipped into an unconscious slumber, ready for the days to come.

And so really endeth Day 1 of our 14 day voyage. Really this time. Stay tuned for more spine tingling adventures as we boldly traverse the Isthmus of Panama in a rented Nissan SUV.

Posted by beerman 17:22 Archived in Panama Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Voyage to the Isthmus of Panama Day 1

My mother said there would be cannibals

snow -12 °C

(As an homage to "24", the following takes place between 28 January 2005 and 10 February 2005. I shall endeavor to make 14 days seem an eternity to you lovely readers - but think of it this way, it will be shorter than reading War And Peace).

The day began innocently enough, though I have always thought innocence to be merely a state of mind. At precisely 4:40 am, the alarm clock crackled to life, abruptly rousing us from a night of twilight sleep. Dreaming had been a luxury this evening, one that was well outside our reach. The alarm stirred other creatures as well, creatures so fearful that the very mention of their names made weak the knees of strong men. As they slowly rose, they began to shake off the remnants of their glorious and luxurious sleep, They were the fortunate ones, they that remained blissfully ignorant of the pedestrian comings and goings of man. A brief tongue bath, perhaps an ear scratch, and the howling began. One by one, in order of dominance, the males began their sonorous serenade. Other lesser creatures became nervous and jittery. Eyes darted, ears perked. The females roamed the living room veldt searching for a morsel, a bite, something to kill. Deep guttural moans filled the still night air, invading our senses like a club across the back of the head. "Will you shut the fuck up", pierced the cacophony with a steel edge. "Now Goddammit!!!". The wails ceased, and the clawed demons skulked back to the couch for a brief nap.

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I rubbed my eyes, trying to shake loose the grip of an utterly dissatisfying night of sleep. To no avail, it would seem. The fog in my head was thicker than mayonnaise with a bit of dijon mustard mixed in. From somewhere deep in my subconscious, just past the parietal lobe, next to and above the medulla oblongata, came a voice...the voice of an angel. Was I dead? Was I only dreaming about the clawed demons? The voice chanted softly, repeating a singular phrase over and over, rising in tempo with each repetition: "We're going to Panama, we're going to Panama". The mayonnaise in my head began to thin as the voice grew louder. This was it, the time had arrived. Many a foul day slaving for the man were about to become just another memory. "We're going to Panama, we're going to Panama..."

The day began innocently enough, though I.....I.....I began to feel a strange sense of deja vu. I had been here before, but the memory was fuzzy, thick, like mayonnaise with a little dijon mustard mixed in. And that chanting, somewhere off in the distance. Realization came quickly now, faster and faster. I slowly rose and peered out the window, frosted over like the eyes of a drunk-on-Budweiser West Virginia hillbilly. But I wasn't in West Virginia. Snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even. If this was Hell, it sure was cold. At once, my mind snapped back into action, sharp as a tack. Like the tack that nasty little kid in second grade put on your chair when you weren't looking. And you sat down. That kind of tack. Stuck in your right ass cheek. With utter resolution born of sheer determination, I crawled back under the covers. "We're going to Panama, we're going to Panama" came the angel's voice again. I knew there was no turning back. No drifting off under the womb-like covers and fluffy pillow. It was essential, nay dare I say imperative, that I rise and get a cup of coffee. I knew I should have put that coffee maker next to the bed. Caffeine. Yes, yes, that was the answer. Throwing on my robe and fuzzy slippers, I trudged through the snow, which had overnight delicately blanketed the hallway and stairs. Several furred demons lay in wait at the top of the stairs, hoping that I would not see them so that, upon tripping over them and falling to my death at the bottom of the stairs, they could begin a grand feast on my warm, yet utterly lifeless, body. Little bastards, I'll show you. I scooped up a handful of snow, patting it together in my hands into a near lethal projectile. I pegged the black demon with a nice curve ball just behind the left ear, and as it scurried away to avoid near certain death, I let out a vicious kick, catching the grey one in the hindquarters and propelling him down the stairs. No feasting today vermin!!! Twenty minutes later, I finally reached the coffee pot. Ah, Giver of Life, warm me with your sweet nectar. Battling off four more demons, I poured the coffee. A little sugar, a short dog sled ride to the refrigerator for the milk, and my task was complete. Ah, sweet nectar of life.

The next hour was filled with the type of adventure usually reserved only for the hardiest of Arctic explorers: brush the teeth, comb the hair, feed and water the cats outside, pack the rest of the suitcases, blow the nose, scratch the arm. This was the stuff of legend. Few mere mortals could even conceive of it, much less live it, as we were doing now. We bid a fond adieu to the foul, black-hearted demons, and departed home.

snow9.jpg

Once outside, we summoned the captain of the icebreaker, ordering him to make all possible haste to the east north-east toward the airport. Alas, there was no crew, and after a simple yet humane execution of the captain, we embarked upon a team of dog sleds and set forth. Arriving at Milwaukee Wisconsin's Mitchell Field some six weeks later, a bit emaciated yet stalwart, we proceeded to the TSA booth, where we were greeted with big smiles and latex gloves. Four days of interrogation sailed by as if they were tea with the Queen. A final application of Preparation H and we were cleared to board the plane for lands unknown. Well, unknown to us anyway.

And so endeth Day 1 of our 14 day voyage, almost. We did actually get to Panama the same day, and that will be covered next. Thank you for your attention, and now if you would please bring your seats back to the upright position, stow your tray tables, and wipe your chin of drool, we can continue.

Posted by beerman 07:44 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

TBEX '10.5

Travel Bloggers and Writers, in a large room, alone, with no coffee.....Saga 5 of 5

sunny 50 °C

Bloggers Disclaimer of Truth - Day Five has really nothing to do with the actual conference - it was over, all over....kaput, finito, done for, in the past, don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out, goodbye

Day 5 of the sage came to a close...we were home.......no wait, I missed something. What was it? Oh, right.....Ah, New York, Gotham, The Big Red Fruit, The City That Never Sleeps.....HA, fooled you, we did sleep. The rum helped, mind you. We awoke to yet another balmy New York summer day. Temperatures were in the high 200s and the humidity was thick enough to swim through. Hot time, summer in the city. Our minds were still racing from the events of the last few days. Blogging, podcasting for alien life, search engine optimization, telling a good story....we were alive dammit, and that's what counted. On came the local television news: several thousand people gathered in Central Park had, or were in the process of, melting. Yellow cabs had overtaken the city and were preparing to overthrow the government and declare their own sovereign nation - Yellow CabLand, where immigrants from every corner of the Earth would be free to drive hybrid Ford Escapes at warp speed to demonstrate their previously unknown might. Ocean bathers in New Jersey were being devoured by an onslaught of killer phytoplankton, which apparently had their own designs on world conquest. Why start in New Jersey, we asked? Still, the local news was intriguing. It was during a story on the most recent excavation attempts at the site of the World Trade Center to find intelligent merchant bankers that we cleaned ourselves and made ready for what was to become, perhaps, the most daunting episode of our 5 day adventure: packing the bags. I hadn't remembered bringing that satchel full of bricks, nor the file cabinet full of breakfast receipts. Fortunately for us, we had brought along our very Tardis-like luggage - much bigger on the inside than on the out. In a mere 30 minutes, we had packed the equivalent of the Library of Congress into 2 carry-ons and one detached garage. Life was good, and so were we.

Craning the last of my shorts into a carry-on, I was suddenly overwhelmed with a scent that made my very essence tingle with anticipation and excitement: cooked meat products. Time for breakkie dear? Indeed, and so we shall descend the tiny staircase and make for the restaurant. The Maitre'd greeted us with a slightly unsettling familiarity, as if he had known us for 4 or 5 days already. Peculiar little man, hunched over in his ill-fitting penguin suit as if waiting for a fish to be thrown his way, but quick with the coffee - had to give him that. The cooked meat products were excellent this morning, and the coffee exquisite. If only we could stay here for the next 8 hours until just before the plane taxis down the runway. But alas, the hotel insisted that we leave at noon, and so it was with heavy heart that we handed back the flat screen and checked out. The hotel was kind enough to store our baggage for a few hours so we could meander the mean streets one last time, to soak up all that the City could throw at us without actually throwing anything. The park was calling once again. Strolling past the chess board tables occupied by men of super-intelligence out to make a quick buck from innocent passersby who knew nothing of the gambling world of park side chess, past the fountain filled with gleeful children and the odd tighty-whitie from the previous day, around the man covered with bird seed and pigeons, by the NYU jazz string trio, and up to the hot dog vendor casually setting up for another day of hawking cooked meat products in a bun, we set ourselves on the shadiest bench we could find. It didn't really matter, it was still 170F in the shade, but who cared? Oh look, a city squirrel. With a gun. And a wad of cash. Why does that pigeon keep giving me the hairy eyeball? I have no seed, be gone little bird. Hours passed like hours in this bucolic setting, and we listened intently to the conversation from the next bench about how the US policy in Afghanistan was short-sighted and we should bring the troops home, right after we solve the issue of how to fill the pockets of virtually every American with cooked meat products. Strange folk, these New Yorkers. Still, worth listening to if for no other reason than they're more informed than Fox News, and somewhat more articulate.

The time to depart had arrived, so to hail a yellow chariot was the order. No, first get the bags from the hotel, then hail. Our driver whisked us at near warp speed toward LaGuardia, pausing only briefly to slam on the brakes to avoid a cataclysmic accident with a runaway Toyota Prius. On the upside, this driver knew where he was going, so the bill was $10 less than the one from the airport to the hotel 4 days earlier. Crazy world, and when apocalypse comes and Yellow CabLand is formed, I want a hybrid Ford Escape.

Following the usual US airport body cavity screenings (just in case we were intent on smart-mouthing the stewardesses or chipping away at the solid cast-iron cockpit door with our nail file), we settled in for a few hours of the finest in people watching. OK, maybe not the finest - it was kind of dull, but we did manage to procure one last cooked meat product wrapped in a bun while we waited. Oh look, all flights to Washington DC are cancelled due to plague. There's a delay to Denver because of some chronic deodorant issue. All flights to Europe are running three hours late because Homeland Security just wants to fuck with people going to Europe. That, and the volcanic ash covering most of London and Paris in a haze thicker than the mustard gas used in WWI. You have to love the unequivocal efficiency of modern airports.

More hours passed, and suddenly, there it was: Lake Michigan, sparkling jewel of the Midwest. We were soon to be home. Landing would, of course, be optimal prior to getting our car from long-term parking. A quick. spine-dislocating three hop landing and we were back on solid ground. Ah Chicago, the City of Big Shoulders, that Toddlin' Town, home of true cooked meat products. We had decided, as we always do, that standing up and unloading the entire overhead bin of our luggage while simultaneously texting God that we were still alive was not the best course. Not that anyone else on the plane took our lead - it was chaos, and I'm certain that God needed to know at that very instant, while the plane was still moving into position at the gate, that Wanda in seat 17C was finally at the gate and would deplane shortly to save the world from cruelty and injustice. Volumes could be written, or possibly tweetered, on such behavior.

Emerging from long-term parking, we found our rear-view mirror tucked gently between the seats. Thanks guys, for taking such good care of our baby while we faced the terrors of New York. What? I can file a claim? Oh, thank you, my mind is now at peace. I am somehow comforted in the fact that I could visit my local WalMart and buy some glue to fix this little issue.

2 more hours to go, 1.5 if traffic is good. As we turned out onto the expressway, I was relieved. We had survived modern flight, modern baggage claim, and no rear-view mirror. Life was beginning to return to some sense of normalcy. As we sped swiftly down the road, I could not get something out of my mind, something that has come to haunt my inner being for some years now....it was all returning, madly and with no change in tempo:

Green acres is the place for me.
Farm livin' is the life for me.
Land spreadin' out so far and wide
Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.

The Green Acres song. Egad, I was turning into Eddie Albert, and beside me sat not Eva Gabor, but Mrs. Eddie Albert. She has also embraced country living, though by nature we are neither country folk nor city folk. We blur the line between the two, we can fit into either society. Cocktails on the mezzanine, or cold box wine over a game of euchre. The only thing that changes is attitude.

And so came to a close the 5-day saga. Thank you for reading along, I hope I have entertained. Please send all your loose change to me, and I promise I'll fully disclose it to the government in my next blog.

Posted by beerman 09:49 Archived in USA Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

TBEX '10.4

Travel Bloggers and Writers, in a large room, alone, with no coffee.....Saga 4 of 5

sunny 50 °C

Bloggers Disclaimer of Truth - Day Four has really everything to do with the actual conference

Day 4 began just as had days 2 and 3....no bourbon and bad radio (thank you Scott Nolan for your song title). We had expressly asked room service for some bourbon and good radio.......although the radio was indeed a good one, complete with iPod dock. But the bourbon was missing. We needed something more, mostly because we couldn't get the flat screen off the wall and into our luggage. I kid, we didn't really try to steal the TV. Resigning ourselves to not having any bourbon, we settled for the next best thing: a shower. Well, two showers really, one each. Moistened and prepared for another day of exquisite information about places we can't afford to go and things we can't afford to do, we sat quietly and listened: the restaurant had been calling our names, much in the same manner as one might hear, off somewhere in the distance, the dim wail of of a seafarer lost to the deep and yearning to be back on dry land with his loved one who waits patiently on the widow's walk of the lighthouse. OK, it might have been the a/c, but maybe not. This was New York, and stranger things have happened. Thus armed with a calling, we made our way through the maze of tiny corridors, down the tiny staircase, past the tiny public telephone (when was the last time you saw a public telephone?), and into the restaurant, to be seated with grace and a warm greeting. Coffee, yes please, and would you be so kind as to bring us more of your delectable cooked meat products and some over easy eggs? You are too kind. You will receive a generous tip....now please hurry with the coffee.
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Once again sated and pleased, a short walk to the Cantor Center found us ready to face the classroom. Timeliness was again a bit slim, but the show soon started with a wrestling death match in a barbed wire cage between Kim Mance of GoGalavanting and Gary Arndt of Everything Everywhere, both resplendent in their finest spandex Mexican Masked Wrestler outfits. Wait, was this all in my mind? Could it be, travel bloggers in death match for supremacy of the blogosphere? Yes, alas I was daydreaming, as Gary's presentation concerned Travel Porn. My mind was now racing....Travel Porn? Throw in some tequila and colorful spandex..... this was my idea of a party. Unfortunately, Travel Porn was just a tease, as Gary admitted right up front. I was dejected, but the pictures displayed on the big screen soon brought my festering mind back to reality. Wow, nice pic......you did that with an old Kodak Brownie? No, not really, but you could have. And that was part of the point: expensive cameras don't necessarily take the best pictures. The best are the ones you have taken that express the essence of what you're trying to convey to your readers. And if you must use someone else's pictures, be kind and give credit where credit is due, after you have received permission for their use of course. Even the worst picture can tell your story and capture someone's imagination.

Ready for the next session, but still saddened at the lack of pictures of wistful travelers wearing nothing but a day pack, I eagerly waited for more blogging tidbits to come my way. Ethics. Hmmm, a far cry from spandex and tequila. Rats. But the chance to hear from a real US Government spokesperson was intriguing. Always be open and honest with any freebies you may have received from the people or places you have visited. Makes sense. Does that include the Mexican Masked Wrestler outfit I got for visiting the Guadalajara Hyatt? Yes, it does, and Uncle Sam will be aware if you haven't disclosed such a fine gift. Well, maybe not completely aware, but the point was that transparency is the higher path to walk, or write, as the case may be. Your readers should know if the resort you write glowingly of actually paid for your room and board and did indeed give you a case of tequila and a box of balloon animals. Where are these resorts, and how come I don't know about them. I love balloon animals. OK, you can write negative reviews about the balloon animals (they looked more like balloon slugs) or that the tequila was barely fit for cleaning the bathroom sink, but you should nonetheless be honest with your readers and the government about how you came to write your Pulitzer Prize winning blog.
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Armed with a dose of transparent facts, the next session brought back the true reason behind all blogs: money. Well, maybe not the true reason, but a good one. How do you make money with your blog through search engine optimization and monetizing strategies? I had no idea.....I thought it was all for fun, but no profit. Silly moi (more French - be envious - but yes, you can use that in your next blog). Link exchanges, key words, photo and video links, e-books, affiliate links, Google Adsense, Google Analytics, Feedburner.......remember these terms and learn about them. There be gold in them thar hills. There are quite a few bloggers who are making much more money than me just by writing good stories and taking good pictures. And here I thought making beer was the be-all-and-end-all. I don't get to travel while making beer (13 miles to work ain't traveling - though I do get to see cows). And the money, well.....I do have fringe benefits that travel bloggers don't, namely, free beer. Take that blogger people!!!!

The closing session of the Really Big Shoe, as Ed Sullivan would have said, was about podcasting. Now at first I pictured this as being about fishing for alien pod people on a frozen lake in Northern Minnesota. Ha, was I wrong. It actually involves taking videos of where you have been and posting them. Who knew? The video needn't be of the most professional grade, nor even shot while standing upright and drinking tequila while dressed in your finest Mexican Masked Wrestler finery, but it should still convey something informative to your subscribers. Craig Martin of Indie Travel Podcast and Chris Christiansen of This Week in Travel/Amateur Traveler did a terrific job of explaining how a good podcast can not only bring you a sumptuous meal of alien beef ribs, but also do wonders for your blog's bottom line. People love a good story, and love video just as much, as long as you don't show them the actual butchering of the alien for the ribs. Again, I kid.....no one talked about butchering aliens or how to prepare a sinfully delicious BBQ sauce. Honest.

And thus we were filled with a sense of wonder and potential money-making ideas. Everyone clapped, and there was cheer. The conference was a resounding success, unless you lost your smart phone at one of the after parties. Ha, I kid. We didn't lose one, so we considered all to be well in the world. Ease up on the tequila shooters Kim!!! Great party you put on though. Now if only we could have had the Gay Pride marchers revel through the Cantor Center......

And on that note, it was Gay Pride Week in the City That Never Schlurps. Following the Big Show, we hiked back toward our home-away-from-home, Washington Square Park. The big parade had wrapped up, and many of the revelers were now occupied in, well, reveling. The most unique and colorful costumes were on display, not the least of which were tighty-whities and suspenders with attached fairy wings. Pride knew no bounds at this gathering. It was even more entertaining than watching people at an airport waiting area. You have to love the complete lack of inhibitions. People were having a smashingly good time in the heat and humidity. I can only imagine the massive amounts of sex that took place that evening, or even that day in the odd back alley.

A nice bottle of rum, that would be the ticket. We managed to find the only liquor store open amidst the throngs of openly happy humanity and purchased a small bottle to tide us over for the evening. Even the armed guard at the door seemed happy. Joy was everywhere.

Back in the confines of our hotel abode, we reveled a bit to ourselves (please, keep your sinful thoughts to yourselves.....we just drank and watched the Discovery Channel). We talked at length about that we had learned.....that tighty-whities don't necessarily need suspenders to keep them up, that one can make money from blogging, that a good story will captivate readers. And we drifted off to sleep, filled with the dreams of children amazed by the world around them.

And so came to a close Day 4 of the saga.

More Blogger's Disclaimer of Truth: All photos courtesy on the author and the author's better half

Posted by beerman 09:32 Archived in USA Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

TBEX '10.3

Travel Bloggers and Writers, in a large room, alone, with no coffee.....Saga 3 of 5

sunny 50 °C

Bloggers Disclaimer of Truth - Day Three has really everything to do with the actual conference

Ah, New York. Once again in the wholesome embrace of the City That Never Schmoozes....er, um, Sleeps. We awoke to the somnambulant din of the window a/c at the reasonably early hour of 7am. No coffee. Or cooked meat products. Just the stale bottle of water from the night before. This would not do. A quick cleansing of the mouth and snappy dressing/hair brushing and we were off to the hotel restaurant. Mmmmmm, coffee, and cooked meat products. A couple of nice over-easy eggs and toast, and we ready to face the conference. Stepping outside, we were accosted by the heat and humidity of yet another New York summer day. Good thing we had coffee and meat products under our belts. A quick jaunt past Washington Square Park, just up a block and around the corner, lay our destination: The Cantor Center, home of TBEX '10. What? What was this? A line? There were to be other attendees? No one told us of this horde of people, this mass of semi-humanity, this bunch of just plain old folks. Go figure. We had been ignorant, lame, out-of-touch with the modern world of tweets and twarks (whatever). We felt like semi-human dinosaurs, as we were quite possibly the only two people in line who had not received their daily marching orders from an ever-omnipresent mobile smart phone. Had we the good sense to have purchased a 25 year contract with free roaming minutes and tweet capability, we would have known, as surely as the rest of this mass of humanity, that there were to be upwards of 300 attendees at this conference/soiree. Dinosaurs....they "extinctified" without ever knowing what it was to tweet, unless one would count us in that select group of larger-than-life reptiles. Then we reptiles were "in like Flint". OK, we're used to standing in line. We can do it with the best of them. Disney has nothing on our ability to stand in line. At least there wasn't one of those little rope thingies to keep everyone marching to and fro.

The conference was scheduled to begin at 9am. Ha. Well, expecting finely honed organizational skills from a flock of madly tweeting bloggers (think geese on migration - but geese know where they're going) was a bit much to ask. They're very nice people, but timeliness is not high on the list of attributes. I'm not that anal about time.....hey, this was New York, nothing runs on time. But I am also the President of District Milwaukee of the Master Brewers Association of the Americas, and I know what it takes to put on a timely affair - not that I'm that good at it, I just know what it takes. Events need organization and a reasonably strict adherence to the clock in order to get things rolling. So began the conference. Oh, and on the organization aspect, we were supposed to pick up our swag bags at the door. Had we not been dinosaurs, we would have found out while waiting in line (twarking again) that the bags were to be made available at the luncheon. Not a problem, but still an organizational thing.

The Cantor Center auditorium was very nice - a good venue. Not unlike a classroom, which honestly is what it was. They had all the bells and whistles - multi-media, a screen, computer hook-ups. Nice. Techno-what-it-should-be. No Wi-Fi, or at least not a functional Wi-Fi. The din of twanks came down as Kim Mance welcomed everybody to the big show. Kim spoke vigorously about how wonderful it was to see so many people from so few walks of life sitting together in one place to share their knowledge and learn from each other about the joys of travel blogging. The first presentation was from Jim Benning regarding "Passion and Wanderlust". And he did speak of passion, the passion of traveling and writing (or blogging about such). Jim did mention that writing and blogging weren't necessarily the same dinosaur, but they shared many of the same attributes. The second session dealt with a panel of experts that expounded on "Upping Your Game", or how to really write a good story. A good story is what make a good story. No, wait, that's rather superfluous. A good story makes your travel experiences accessible to others, interesting to an audience. OK, that made sense. And it could potentially make your writing worth a bit of cash to those that have not experienced the joy that is traveling, and well, writing about it. The final session prior to lunch concerned Travel Video for the Web. This did not go over well, not because the subject wasn't interesting, but because our tech-savvy hosts were not familiar with the finer points of the offerings of the Cantor Center. The video uploads were not accessible, for whatever reason. Nonetheless, the panel gave it their all, regaling us with the details of what it takes to make a good video blog, complete with editing tips and tricks.

Lunch.

This was good. We sat through several hours of useful information, and now it was time to forget about all that with a bit of repast. Australia's Outback Northern Territory hosted a lovely meal at a restaurant that was, by all modern accounts, 700 blocks from the Cantor Center. Ha, we were not to be daunted by yet another hike through Greater New York. A short hike....we could do this. In flip-flops no less. We arrived just in time to beat most of the twarking throng and made our way to the sandwich bar. Mmmmm, more meat products. And a Coke. While we were engaged in the ritual "stuffing-of-the-mouth", Mike Barish of Gadling spoke of his adventures Down Under, sponsored by our luncheon host. Mike spoke well, and really made me want to see Oz more than I already did, though he was not especially willing to pop for airfare. I did manage to pick up a snazzy flash drive loaded with AONT's latest PR. This was another good thing....lunch AND a flash drive. Could things get much better?

Fully quenched and sated, we wound our way back for another round of insight and entertainment....and giveaways. Missed out on the actual giveaways, but what the hell.

The afternoon sessions started with a panel discussion about "Working with PR". This, I had to see. No one likes PR, nor the people that are saddled with the thankless task of earning a living trying to convince others that they really need to understand and appreciate the importance of tourism and oatmeal in Lower Beeristan. The panel still did surprise me: they were not the slack-jawed "come here because we're neat-o" sort of group. Much information was gleaned about how to deal with public relations. As the session finished, I had the unnerving itch to fly to Vancouver, or Vail, Colorado. Maybe it was something in the air. Had the a/c been spiked with tourism gas? Perhaps not. The final session of the day began with a description of "finding your niche". Funny, I thought I had a niche already. Had I unknowingly lost my niche? I was puzzled, until the speakers told of a simple truth: write about what you know, your niche. At the same time, try not to make your writing all about you....tell a story, don't make it all "I did this, then I did this, then I ate this. Informative, yet somehow obvious. Tell a story....duh. Still, good tips were to be had, and the panel knew of which they spoke.

The Saturday conference closed with an invitation to the Trip Advisor happy hour hosted at Bar 13, on the roof. Did I mention that it was even hotter today than it was yesterday? Still, drinks on the house - the best kind. And there was yet another give-away: 2 iPads. OK, we were in. Unfortunately, the roof was not quite capable of hosting 300 people, and it was wall-to-wall elbows and cocktails. Oh, and hot. Fortunately, someone at Bar 13 made the commendable decision to open their second floor to free cocktails to alleviate the crush of semi-humanity that was the roof. And the World Cup game between the USA and Ghana was on the telly. Nice. Not so nice, as it turned out, for Team USA, but still. Didn't win an iPad either. I tried tweeting for one, but since I had no smart phone, my efforts fell short. Damn technology.

We left the rooftop jangle and headed back to the hotel for a bit of freshening up. Ah, a quick dip in the sink was to be the order. Fully refreshed, we made preparations for the final event of the evening. This would require a fresh set of undergarments. Besides, it was another 75 block walk. But the event was well worth the effort: the Bootsnall and EuroCheapo Afterparty. This was held at the Professors Loft, a quaint historic building playing host to a techno-funk bar/mingling spot that was certainly not built to withstand the onslaught of several hundred writer/blogger folk. And come we did, ready for more cocktails (free) and social discourse (via twart or actual face-to-face). These folks put on quite the soiree, though the noise level was just a tad higher than having a 747 land on your left foot. At night.

Spryly pacing back to the hotel, it was another day spent reveling in the joy of the City. And we learned something. One should strive to learn something new everyday, even if it's that you don't like techno-funk at 747 decibel levels. We met nice people. Not that I can remember all their names, but still, a good time was had.

Drifting off to sleep, we vowed that one day we would shake off our scale-like reptilian skins, join the modern world, and twank with the best of them. Well, not really, but it sounded good at the time.

And so came to a close Day 3 of the saga.

Posted by beerman 11:25 Archived in USA Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

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