Note:

This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

An Adventure in Atlanta

Day three went a little more “crazy” for me.

I attended three excellent morning sessions, starting with a kick off by Paul Adams. One would think I would know who he was but I really didn’t until last night, when the hostess of the conference was giddy with excitement about him coming to speak tomorrow (today). Without trying to figure it out on my own, I was told that he was a former Google employee now with Facebook who flew in from Japan to open the conference. While he spoke about how verticals of the future will be impacted by social networking, I found out on my Xoom that he was the guy who wrote about Facebook’s security issues as a google employee, and voila! Now works for FB. It was a good opening presentation. I am always amazed at how seamlessly some people can talk to people without a rehearsed, or even documented on cards, presentation. I’m not a fan but I’m not NOT a fan…

The sessions after his talk were awesome too. At lunch, I sat at a table that was then populated with semi-big-wigs. At least one of them was by the way that most of the men at the table were craning their heads to talk to him. It was a nice lunch and then I was off to check out Peachtree station to find out what it was all about. I heard there was a coffee shop there and since there was “starbucks” at the hotel (and just an urn with starbucks coffee), I decided I had to have good, reputable, good-for-the-soul coffee (aka NOT starbucks). I ended up getting Caribou, which, despite being a chain, doesn’t anger as me as much as starbucks. Mainly because people with starbucks coffee cups act like they are tres cool vs. any other coffee mug in existence. Personally, I’d rather walk around with a big mug labeled with McDonald’s on it, just to show that I could give a shit about yuppy, shitty coffee.

As usual, I digress.

On my way out of the Peachtree Station with my Caribou (two shot) mocha, I was stopped by an “ambassador” who asked me where I was from. Um. The Hyatt, I say. He laughs. No! What is your background!

Oh. Well, my mother is Filipino.

Ah. Can you speak Filipino?

Very little, I say. Wondering why this man, who certainly does not appear to be Filipino, would inquire.

I speak a little, he says.

Really? Like what?

First thing he says: Maganda. I say thank you. Then he says “salamat” and then I realize that he is just saying the words. I thought he was saying I was “maganda”, which means “pretty”. “Salamat” means thank you.

He then adds “mahal kita” which means “I love you”.

He asks where I am from…I say Raleigh. I ask where he is from and he says Morrocco. We converse a bit more and he tells me how he is an interpreter and can speak four languages. What languages, I ask. French and three others I can no longer remember. Finally, I go my merry way back to the hotel. I love how I find myself meeting people like this.

The rest of the day goes on and I realize that the seminars for the day end quite early. I decide to check out Buckhead, with the goal of hitting FLIP Burger Boutique, which is a restaurant from Richard Blais, who is famous *to me* and any Top Chef fan out there.

I convince myself that I _can_ take the train so I make that bold move and figure out how to buy my ticket (round trip), use it to get through the turnstile, and head downstairs, deeper into the ground of Atlanta, I find myself on board and headed to Lennox Station.

The mall here is magnificent. Not magnificent like OMG SHOPPING. That might have been my reaction many years ago but now it’s like, jesus Christ this is too much. I walk around, figure out that everything in this mall is high dollar (BCBG, Michael Kohrs, Nine West, etc.) and decide to head towards FLIP burger.

But alas! Rain! Lightning! Lights in the mall flashing on and off! I am stuck in the building, watching the rain. I know that FLIP is not too far away so I make the decision to grab a taxi to take me over.

I run in the rain to the closest taxi, who motions to me. WHAT?! I yell, as I get drenched. He barely pulls the window down when he points me to a different taxi. I run to that taxi as he points to a _different_ taxi. Are you fucking serious?! Can you see me getting soaked? I look at the taxi I have been motioned to and there is no one in the driver seat. WTF? I get in anyway because, god dammit, I am getting drenched. By the time I sit in it, the driver is there. Where the hell did he come from???

I tell him where I want to go and off we go. Guess what? The traffic lights are out en route to the place I want to go. I mean – major intersections! And being in a taxi is great…sort of…because they just GO. There is no yield. There is only FUCK YOU, I have a passenger and I’m getting them there. And get me there he did.

But the place looked closed. Great. I didn’t pay attention to their hours, I think to myself. Still raining, I run in and see a couple of people at the bar.

“Are you open?”

“Yes, but we do not have any power so we cannot serve you food.”

“Can I hang out here anyway? I have nowhere else to go.” Wow. I sound so pitiful. But it’s true. I just let the taxi go.

“Yes. We just can’t serve you.”

So I take a seat at the bar and I’m thinking, I could drink couldn’t I? As if he read my mind, the bartender asks if he can get me a drink. He says it will be on the house.

Wow.

I order a glass of the Quickfire Pinot Noir (a Masterchef specialty).

I sit there, trying to get myself less frazzled. I am not entirely concerned as I plan to eat there and can wait for the power to come on.

I overhear the manager call the power people, telling them he would like to look into getting a generator, as this seems to happen more often than they care. My assumption of his side of the conversation…

And barely 15 minutes there, a waitress brings me a burger. She said something that I didn’t understand. I looked at the bartender quizzically and he said “If you’re hungry…” It ends up they gave me a burger on the house too. I am bowled over. There is nowhere in Raleigh that I know of that would provide such gracious service *for free*.

I end up having one other glass of wine and an order of fries, so I tip generously since they provide my food and drink…and then I grab a taxi to get back to the hotel. The bartender said that the best place for me to grab the rail back was where I ended up at, at the mall. That meant a taxi to the station, then the rail back to Peachtree. I decided it would be best just to take the taxi back to the hotel.

Apparently, 18:30 in Atlanta, after a rain storm, is NOT the best condition to ride a vehicle back to my hotel. It took an hour and 10 minutes to go the distance that is normally a 12 minute drive. Traffic everywhere. Lights out. My taxi drove through a huge traffic ramp median to get off of the exit ramp and get back on the local road.

And for an hour, we talked. I learned that my driver was from Somalia and has been in Atlanta for 10 years. He moved his family from Somalia to Kenya, where he left his family to come here on a student visa. He ended up in Colorado first but he didn’t know a single soul. He had friends in Atlanta so he moved here, where he worked a bit until he bought his own car and began driving for a taxi company. He has seven brothers and sisters from one father/mother, but two other sibling from father/different mother. He lived 15 miles from the city.  He doesn’t plan to leave Atlanta. He’s trying to get his mother here but it’s difficult. He has no children. And he was very sorry that it took so long to get me to my hotel.

He laughed at my story about the guy wanting to buy me a cold bottle of water. He seemed to agree, with other folks I met up today, that the Underground is not the best place to visit for someone like me.

The irony of all of this was during our conversation, I mentioned how I prefer to see how a place is “locally”. I am not big on seeing fish in a tank; I like to enjoy the natural elements of a place. Well, I got it. Traffic an all. And now that I’m safe in my room, it was quite an adventure that I enjoyed immensely.

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