Friday, March 12, 2004

Four flights in four days.

I'm finally home -- and I'm more than a little tired. But not too tired for a long-overdue blog update!

Boston on Tuesday and Wednesday was fun ... if you consider six hours of watching focus groups through a one-way mirror "fun." While I wasn't going to be there long, I had hoped I'd at least get a mini-driving tour of the city as I rode from the airport to the hotel, but all I got to see was the inside of the new traffic-relieving tunnel system. Whee.

There was one perk in the first focus group, though: a total hottie with the cutest straight-frat-boy demeanor. Most focus group subjects exist to reinforce the fact that the population of the United States is quite unattractive, so it was with great pleasure that I sat and watched Tom (I call him Tom -- 'cause that's his name) offer his ineloquent opinions to the group for two hours.

I didn't see Brian moping around the city while I was there, but I did hear a lot of people with his funny Boston accent.

And we got to stand behind Bling-Bling Girl as we waited to go through security at Logan Airport on the way home. She dutifully took off her shoes and coat and purse and sent them through the thing scanner, but she was shocked -- shocked! -- that her 20 rings, giant hoop earrings, charm-laden ankle bracelet and clunky chatelaine somehow set off the alarms when she tried to wear them through the people scanner. (And even after she took off all that bling, she was still ugly.)

New York yesterday and today was a lot more fun -- probably because I was there to attend a schmooze-the-client party. We stayed in a really cool hotel just around the corner from my friend Arno's office, and I had exactly one free hour to hang out with him and get the 10¢ tour of the neighborhood -- including the beautiful Grand Central Station and the epic New York Public Library.

The client party was at a funky restaurant-bar that was reportedly once a location for an episode of Sex and the City. Even better than the swanky restaurant was the ultra-swanky stretch limo we all took there. (There was a huge line for cabs at the hotel, see, so we decided to ride to the party in style since the limo was right there and could accommodate us all for about the same price as three cabs.) I'd never been in a limo, and it was as horrifyingly bourgeois as I'd imagined: color-changing fiber-optic lights twinkling on the ceiling and racing along the entire interior, hip-hop music on the sound system, a bar stocked with cheap liquor and store-brand sodas, and enough black leather and polished chrome to make a Harley owner weep.

I was a little nervous going into the party and meeting a roomful of clients, though, because the very nature of the situation robbed me of the only conversations-with-strangers ice-breaker I ever use: "So, what do you do for a living?" But the clients were fun and interesting, and I was never at a loss for things to talk about. And one of the guys was even pretty hot -- though he was clearly on the prowl for woman-meat all night.

After the Brasserie wait staff made it painfully clear that our party time was over, the heartiest among us stumbled a few blocks over to the ultra-trendy Town restaurant-bar in the shamelessly self-aware Chambers hotel. The bar -- which is decorated in a totally cool minimalist-meets-Goudí vocabulary -- was populated with an interesting mix of patrons and a surly bar staff in Stepford Prada and I'm-more-sophisticated-than-you-because-I'm-wearing-thick-horn-rim-glasses horn-rim glasses. (It must be exhausting to carry around that much attitude all day.)

And among that interesting mix of patrons was a minor celebrity: the hideous man-woman Steven Cojucaru. I had no idea who he/she was at first, but I kept staring down his/her open blouse to try to determine if he/she was a man or a woman. After I gave up caring, someone in our party realized we had this bona-fide celebrity among us, but by that time he/she had disappeared into the crowd, never to frighten us again with his/her gender-bending fashion-victim countenance.

Now I'm back in Chicago and looking forward to relaxing at home tonight with some trashy TV and then maybe a trip to Sidetrack.


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