Black Box Canyon
New York City
"They won't be ready for another twenty minutes. Can you come back then?" I quickly calculated what I had to do in the next thirty minutes and thought I could make it back to the cleaners to pick up my shirts before leaving. In the ensuing rush, I promptly forgot all about them until I turned into the culdesac after the trip - much too late to get the shirts before leaving for New York. But, it just didn't matter. I had just come through another one of those soul purifying experiences and having clean, pressed shirts for meetings at PC Expo in New York somehow seemed entirely insignificant.
Before I left for the cleaners, I left the garage door open and all the camping stuff out so that if anyone arrived before I got back, they could start getting things together. As I pulled into Arthur's Court, Seth was trudging towards the house with his duffel bag hanging at his side and a huge twelve man tent across his shoulders. I pulled over and he threw it inside and then climbed in. In the driveway, there were several boys with backpacks, sleeping bags, and sacks of candy. Some were looking for coolers with empty space and others were staking out their seats in the cars.
This trip would be different from the last few. On the trip to Scoffield there were seven leaders and eleven boys. Today there would be only Rick and I for leaders and two outfits. That meant that we needed to fit everyone that was coming and all the gear into our two rigs. I had borrowed Dan's (or Kent's - I don't know who claims ownership but Dan had it) little trailer and was hoping that everything would fit. It was close.
Rick said that thirteen boys said they were coming and he thought some might bail. The count must have been off because Mike Johnston and Matt Gibby didn't come but there were fourteen boys plus Rick and I. I had my new (well new to me) Suburban and Rick had his Montero.
Boys were coming and going from all over the neighborhood. Some came and went back for their release forms. Others slipped back home for extras like folding chairs and beach umbrellas. A couple of moms came to sign forms and make sure their boys had everything they needed. We loaded the trailer high, threw over a tarp, and then secured it with a spiderweb of nylon rope. The seating order was set; Seth and Mark front; Brendon, Clint, and Ryan rear; and Brent, Justin Wilding, Steve, and Bobby squished in the middle. Rick had Richard, Justin Dyer, Bryant, Kenny, and no room for Matt. We drove over to Ricks and mounted his roof cargo carrier and then made a space for Matt in the back on top of sleeping bags. They boys practiced batting with green apricots in Wilson's driveway.
A few instructions, a description of Bobby Anderson's near death auto accident, a short prayer and we were almost on the road. The trailer tire was low so we stopped at Country Cousins just before the freeway to inflate and equalize the load. We had traveled for nearly five minutes and the boys were already wanting to buy drinks and more red licorice.
The Suburban - we're thinking of calling it VAV for Varsity Assualt Vehicle - was loaded to the gills but got out and motored up to speed. We wound out way to Soldier Summit and then down into Price where we stopped for more drinks and gas. South of Price towards Castledale, we turned off and passed through Cleveland. Not far past Cleveland, oiled road and civilization stopped. The landscape was rolling hills, brush, and an occasional fenceline. Seeing Rick's 4WD up ahead with the billowing dust trails, one might think we were in the middle of a National Geographic special. A couple of turns off the main road onto minor roads and we eventually found ourselves winding towards the Wedge.
The Wedge Overlook is a finger point that provides a panoramic view of the San Rafel Swell - sometimes called the mini Grand Canyon. Driving over cattle guards, through gullies, and around washouts, your not really expecting the immensity of open space that drops breathtakingly before you as the road ends. Far down in the bottom of the red and white walled canyon, is a gray ribbon of water narrowly outlined with green trees and vegetation. Off in the distance are chimney peaks and red rock buttes.
With the heat, there wasn't a lot of popular consent for a walk to the overlook but a few of us did it. Then it was back to the trucks. Thank goodness the air conditioning was working (both front and rear). We doubled back a ways and then started dropping down in elevation. The canyons and rock formations were rugged on both sides with colors ranging from gray, to white, to dark red. A stream bed followed the road but there was no water.
We made one stop at the dinosaur footprint. Who knows if it was authentic but it could be. By a big bend in the road is a turnout. On the opposite side of the road from the turnout is a rock shelf that is about 20 feet high. We climbed up the shelf and the spread out looking for the flat rock which covers the mystery. We soon found it and moved it aside. The track is a three toed foot print that is about 14-16" long and two inches deep. About four feet ahead are indentations which could indicate a second track moving in the same direction. A pose for a picture and we continued our descent.
Just before the river (San Rafel campground) is a turnoff. We drove on down to the river to see how much water was coming through. I couldn't remember but it looked like less than last year. Out of the car it was hot and the boys headed for the river. Justin Wilding was first and 20 feet before the water his clothes were off except for his undershorts. He jumped down the bank, slipped, and landed in the water. By the time I got there, he was skipping up and down the river bed, kicking water in the air and rolling his arms in the air like a windmill.
Back in the trucks and on further toward the ends of the earth. The roads were less even and with deeper washboard ruts and less room on each side. After fifteen miles, we came the turn off to last years campground. It was perched on the edge of another deep canyon with the river distantly visible. Hard to believe that we had descended all that way to the river and then that it had dropped so much further down.
This canyon was starkly rugged with no vegetation. The walls were rocky with few smooth walls and not much color other than brown and gray mixed with specks of black. In the morning, we would begin our descent.
We unwrapped the trailer and emptied out the contents. The sideboards came off and were laid across the back to make a cook table. Dinner had been prepared the night before by the food committee (Ryan, Clint, and Brendon). They had been in charge of the food and they wanted spaghetti. The grandfather of all tents went up while sleeping spots were picked. The back of the VAV was immediately spoken for.
With some daylight left, it was time to go rappelling. Last year, the ward bought the young men equipment with some left over budget money. We tied up to a tree and then set up the production line. With two sets of harnesses and two helmets, one person would be backing off the cliff while the next was getting ready. We only had my work gloves so when the descent was finished, some one would put tiny rocks in them and throw them back to the top.
The veterans (those that went last year) were first in line. The harness and beaners weren't exactly right every time but they were safe. Everyone tried it except Matt. He has an intense fear of heights - at Steve's Eagle project he was afraid to even hike up the mountain where we were digging erosion trenches. He had no intentions of going and wasn't even going to try. Kenny did it. Justin Dyer was in line right after the veterans. We all took turns going down and snapping pictures from the edge.
Bryant finished and went back to camp to start the dessert - dutch oven cobbler - because he already knew how to make it. I was standing there strapping someone in when he came up with a pan and asked, "Is this the right way to do this?" His first obvious mistake was that he had used the spaghetti pan instead of the dutch oven. I sent him back to scrape off the cake mix and then start over.
I had accidentally picked up a chocolate cake mix with the white so Bryant did one half in white and the other in chocolate. It didn't taste bad - cherry chocolate cobbler. It started getting dark and the horseflies disappeared. We heated up the spaghetti that Ryan, Clint, and Brendon had made the night before, broke out the rolls that had been frozen from the St. George trip and started slamming down food. It was hot and a heat wasn't exactly necessary but what's a campout without fire. It was soon raging with the wood that we brought from home.
Bryant, Mark, and Justin were addicted to repelling and took turns going up and down until it was completely dark. Seth and some others erected the grandfather of all tents (not to be confused with Mark's mother of all tents) and the rest of us made beds under the stars or in the cars. Moon rise was one of the most spectacular that I have ever seen. There were clouds in the east and as the moon came up, the yellow and gold reflection looked like a soft sunrise. The moon was full and we turned down the lantern and watched mystical moonrise. For some reason, everyone was wired and it took forever to get to sleep. I finally dozed off at midnight only to be awakened thirty minutes later when Mark dove on top of me.
Saturday morning, the last ones asleep were surprisingly the first ones up. It cooled off a little in the night but was still comfortable. We breakfasted on fruit, muffins, and fruit loops. The rising sun gave spectacular color to the surrounding chimney rocks and red cliffs. Within a few minutes the trailer was loaded (much lighter than the trip down) and we were ready for fun. We drove over to the drop off point and left the boys and trailer while Rick and I ferried the VAV to the exit point. The odometer read about seven miles.
Back to the top and of course boys were scattered all along the rim and down into the canyon. We had left specific instructions to keep together and stay at the top but at the same time had given the challenge to find a way down. How do you find a way down if you don't go down a ways? The rest of us at the top walked along the first rim till we found the trail down marked by small piles of stones. Looking down, I remembered the thought that I had last year that one slip could start a rock slide that could wipe out anyone below it. In the several prayers that we had had since leaving, we always prayed for safety and we had reminded the boys on more than one occasion that they were to be extremely careful.
Down we went. Hands and feet scrambled for holds. We clambered over boulders the size of a house and inched along cat trails. Closer to the bottom we worked down through a rock slide and then into a drainage draw where we could jump from the rocks into occasional sand and gravel. Most of the time, the grayish green river was insight and before long almost everyone was at the bottom.
When I got there, all but Richard and Justin Dyer had gone ahead - not too good at listening to directions I guess. Bobby was behind somewhere and Rick cut back across the draw to find him. Ten minutes later they came into view. Rick said he found Bob sitting on the edge of a rock with his knees at his chest pondering how he was going to get down.
A few hundred yards down river, we found everyone (waiting for us) playing in the water. Last year, we had started a marathon pace march that didn't leave us time to play or observe the beauty so this year we got wet and had some fun at the beginning. After about 20 minutes of splashing and soaking, I told them it was time to move as we had a long way to go and there would be much funnier places to play as we went along.
There was relatively no trodden path to speak of. We would walk along the bank and could see where grass had been trampled but abruptly the path would come to an end and we would climb over a rock and push back some brush to move on. Often footprints would end at the water and we would slowly wade in. Entering the water was always a gamble. Sometimes the bottom would be sand or gravel but more often than not it would be boulders. The water was murky so we (well some of us older ones) would pick our way blindly along. More than once someone would go down yelling, "rock" or "hole" and some times "big rock/big hole!" No one came away without scraped shins and sore feet. My toes were so tender from being stubbed often. Richard won the stoicism award. He had entered the canyon wearing sport sandals (everyone else had old tennis shoes). The sandals weren't working so he went to aqua socks. They looked very uncomfortable and not at all adequate for support but we never heard a word from him by way of complaint. I asked him several times how he was holding up and he always said fine.
Not far down the river, we found a big rock with water over everyone's head. Whenever there were big rocks, there was usually deep water right next to them because the current had washed out all of the underlying dirt forcing a current around the rock. The adventurers (Mark, Seth, Bryant, Ryan, Clint, and Justin) were jumping off the rocks into the water. As I showed up Mark was doing a back flip.
The boy's path went from "I can't touch here - it's over my head!", up slippery mud, over rocks, on grass, wading back into water, to "It's over my head again!" The scenery was spectacular! The early stretch of the canyon was just very rugged. The walls looked like jagged piles of boulders that were red, tan, and gray with streaks of black. The further we went along, the narrower the canyon got and the more vertical the walls.
A couple of the boys were straggling way behind and I was worried that at the rate they were going, they wouldn't make it. We had finished in really good time last year and I knew that we had a few more hours but they were still going slow. I pulled one of them aside and explained the seriousness of the situation and told him that his challenge was to keep up with the group and that I would take his pack. No matter what, just keep moving. At lunch, he was 30 minutes behind the rest of the group but he ate his lunch and then was ready to go. We would stop to rest and he would grab a drink and then take off. By the end of the trip, he was well ahead or several others.
We had lunch at an overhang that provided some shade. It was so hot that Justin and Mark just stayed in the water. Lunch time brought home the lessons that we needed to check next year. Very few had dry lunches even though we had provided ziplock bags. Bryant and Matt had brought cans of Spagettios but no can opener. There were a lot of bags of water drenched food. With the dry stuff, there was enough to go around and everyone was nourished enough to go on. By the time we were ready to leave, mud fights were in play and Clint was blasting gummy bears into the air with his wristrocket.
The challenge of moving down the river was exhilarating. We were moving quickly to make up time and going from land to water to rocks to floating. Often I would find myself hopping from rock to rock only to end up with no more rocks but enough momentum to have to plunge into the water. I don't know how many times I almost lost my balance and fell. One time I was charging through fairly still water and squarely hit a submerged boulder with both kneecaps.
All of us had on life vests and although the water wasn't as high as last year, there were several places where we had to just float on the jackets. Not long after lunch we came to a place in the river where the canyon was narrow and filled with huge boulders. The water disappeared under the boulders and only small pools were visible. The boys were leading the leaders as usual and they had climbed down to the pools and then floated through the small caves created by the big rocks. In one spot, two large boulders created a v-shaped passageway where we had to squeeze through by pushing down against the rocks. There was nothing but water underneath and it was too narrow to float or swim through. Clint said, "This should be called the Wedge." Just through the wedge were a couple of places to jump in without touching bottom. We all jumped and then decided to cannonball a few. I tried it and then noticed my fanny pack floating beside me. The jump had ripped out both belt straps!
A little further we came to the place that we had to jump from last year only now the water all ran underneath the rocks. The first few were able to inch their way down the rocks but it soon became too slick and treacherous for the rest. With a couple of sticks to push up from below, the rest of the boys were lowered down to the bottom. Justin and I found a knotted rope that we were able to work down and then drop into the water. The only problem was that the water was only about a foot deep so it didn't cushion much of the fall.
From this point on, was the most beautiful part of the canyon. The walls were high and narrow and although they appeared as if red might have been the under color, they were blasted with black. The walls looked as if a giant blow torch had been lowered to blast them black. At one point we stopped to look at the view. Ahead, the canyon was narrow, windy and black with the smooth water completely covering the canyon floor. High above a red rock bluff could be seen against the blue sky. As I looked back, the smooth sand floor and rugged rock walls stretched up to another piece of cool blue sky. In both directions were boys - outfitted in brightly colored life vests, packs and water bottles splashing through the water.
Last year, we had floated the last half mile as there walls were straight up and the water was deep. This year however, the water was shallow but thankfully the bottom was sand and gravel, not boulders. We walked along admiring the beauty and occasionally dropping into a hole that was chest deep. At one point Rick and I were walking side by side and I was in about six inches of water and he was up to his chest. I turned to one of the boys behind me and asked, "Now which of your leaders do you think has the most faith?"
We soon came to the exit spot (which we missed last year and added another half mile on to the hike) and left the canyon. We made sure that all of the boys were out of the canyon and knew which direction to head for the VAV. It was about a 3/4 mile hike to the end of the road. Food was gone, water empty, energy was expended but everyone had had a great time.
Back at the VAV, we managed to get all 16 of us on board for the trip back to Rick's truck. Some rough road and a couple of popping sounds from the running boards but we made it. We drained the coolers (which still had a little ice in them), finished off the muffins and then headed for Price.
Going home was like a horse headed for the barn door. No other cars in sight and we drove like Brother Earnst (last year he drove so fast home that Rick got carsick and had to stop and hurl). It didn't take long for almost everyone to fall asleep. In Price, the unanimous vote was to stop at Wendy's. The inside line was so long that a couple of boys walked through the drive up. They got done so fast that most of the rest of us followed suit. We all lined up on the asphalt in the shade of the building, passed french fries back and forth, and talked about how much fun we had had. Every few minutes someone would decided they hadn't had enough to eat and would go jump up and down in front of the order entry place until the cute girl would ask if she could take their order.
The rest of the trip was a wind down. We listened to "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" about a dozen times. They politely listened to Bach's Toccata and Fugue for me. The sun was just setting as we rolled into the River Ridge neighborhood. We were exhausted but happy. We had been to the ends of the earth, marveled at it's beauty, pushed ourselves to conquer the canyon, and all returned safely.
It was after nine by the time we got home. We unloaded in the driveway and I washed and sprayed as we unloaded to keep things clean. I would be leaving in the morning for New York and there was a lot that I had needed to do. One of the primary concerns was Spence's dutch oven - I think that we had ruined it with the cobbler. I called Pam and showered and she came over. We cleaned, watered all of the flowers and garden and got things ready for the cement crew that would be coming in while I was gone. We went to Albertsons and then I packed and washed clothes to go. I was working in interrupt mode and had to keep writing things down so I wouldn't forget them. Call Gregg to get lawn mowed, get keys to Seth, take wallet to Justin. Pam left about 1 am and I went to bed at 2. The alarm rang at 6:30 (both of them) and rousted me off the couch. It had been so hot that I slept downstairs. One aircon unit just doesn't cut it. I ironed clothes and finished packing, dropped off the stuff and then headed for the office.
I had forgot to get the ticket and my list of meetings and stuff for Steve. It was an absolutely beautiful morning and I drove with the top down to the airport. I was a little stiff but the feeling of physical, emotional, and spiritual cleansing that the canyon had produced was wonderful. I felt so grounded and ready to take on anything.
The flight was non eventful. I must be developing some sort of condition. Every time that they push the plane away from the gate, I fall immediately asleep. I don't even rouse for takeoff. We backed away and the next thing I knew, we were somewhere over Wyoming.
Talk about the colliding of two worlds! The contrast between Saturday and Sunday was mega. For some reason, the baggage took forever to come. I usually don't check baggage but had a 70 pound duffel bag for Steve Saunders with diapers, olives, crisco, chilis, and tooth brushes. It finally came and I took a cab - traffic was terrible and it was hot and humid. $47 cab ride with tip. I went straight to the Marriott where Steve was staying and immediately got that Laguna feeling - gays everywhere. I soon learned that Sunday was the culmination of the gay games, an event that drew in 500,000 people from around the world. The games were over and lots of them were walking around Times Square. The contrast was stark.
New York is a world of it's own. I can't even begin to describe the diversity of people and the feelings that I get when I am there. I was debating this trip whether it would be a good place for Mom and Dad to visit as it is such and experience but I can't adequately describe it.
The first assault on the senses this time was the gays. Usually it is the people and congestion but I must be getting used to that. It is such a perplexing situation. Gay people are not things I can hate. While I do sense something definitely different which I don't want to associate with and am afraid of, it is not an identifiable dislike similar to other forms of evil. Most of them are considerate, helpful, and cheerful and while I don't sense any malice or hatred, there is an occasional arrogance. They are usually identifiable but how I am not sure. Often they are well built, muscular, handsome and well dressed. The scary ones are the older ones - they look hammered. I am sure that is part of the temptation - looks good going in but once committed, it disappears. We saw an interesting scene at the airport on the way home. I noticed someone in a wheel chair across the restaurant with oxygen. As they left, I noticed that he was young but terribly emaciated and weakened. The fellow pushing his wheelchair and pulling his baggage cart was healthy looking, smartly dressed, and probably gay. As they passed our table, it occurred to me that they were probably boyfriends and the one in the wheelchair had AIDS.
Anyway, at the Marriott, I avoided a couple of elevators to get a more heterosexual mix and dropped the seventy pound load at Steve's door. It was good to see him! We talked for a while and he went through the stuff. His room was directly over Times Square and we could stand at the window and look at all of the neon signs. The Coca Cola sign with the bottle and lid which kept coming off to reveal the straw coming out. There was one sign which was tracking the number of deaths caused by hand guns. While we were there, the number rose by almost 1000. With each one, there was a one or two line blurb telling what happened.
Steve was suffering from jet lag and we had planned to just spend Monday seeing sights so I went downstairs and asked for directions to my hotel. It was only a couple of blocks away. The Marriott had gays but the Royalton was teeming with them. Apparently, the Royalton was the "hotel of the hour" as a cab driver said; the trendy place to be. Those in the lobby and restaurant looked like upscale society. The hotel reminded me of one that we stayed at in Lopburi with mirrors on the ceiling and flashing neon lights and I got this sick feeling.
The deco and fixtures of the hotel were unique to say the least. All the walls were dark gray. The furniture in the lobby was funky designed chairs draped with white linen. The tables were glass and brushed steel. The room was similar. The elevators were very small and the hall to the room was very dark. Black walls with dark blue carpet and track lighting which lit it up. The bed in the room was right on the floor and all in white - down comforter and down pillows. The bed was recessed into a little archway with wood and round metal and glass shelves. Walls and drapes were dark gray and all the wood was a high gloss cherry. The bathroom was all gray slate and glass. The sink was a glass plate that was suspended by brushed steel brackets. The sink itself was a silver cone shape and the faucets were cylinders that came out of the wall with a little blue pipe for cold and red for hot pointing upwards. The shower had the same kind of faucets and was the whole end of the room with a clear glass wall and door. Inside the shower was a full length mirror and the same funky faucets with a cylindrical portable shower head. It was kind of cool but kind of weird.
I met Steve at about 10 am Monday and we headed out to watch him shop. He usually drops a grand or two on these trips but wasn't in much of a spending mood. We hit Macy's, Bloomingdales, and Saks (to see how the power people of the world dress) and then headed for the World Trade Center. He had never taken the subway in New York so I thought it was a good time to show him that not every person from Utah that takes the subway in New York gets shot. Going down the narrow stairs into the dark smelly subway isn't exactly intuitive but we got our tokens and found the train that was going downtown.
The World Trade Center is gargantuous. Out of the subway are malls and above that are offices. We lunched on pizza from Sbarro's (an Italian food chain that is everywhere) and then bought a ticket to go to the top. It was like Disneyland - the lines that is - 45 minutes of walking through a rope maze to get to the elevator. At the top we took in the view on all four sides and picked out all of the notable landmarks. It was wild to be standing in buildings anchored on ground but looking down on helicopters and airplanes below you. I stuck my forehead to the glass and looked straight down. Pretty good rush. Not quite as high as Angel's Landing and only 1/3 as high as the Grand Canyon. We could see a clear shot of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We had to wait in line to go back down.
Wall Street wasn't far away. "It looks so much larger on TV!" The line to go in to the stock exchange was too long and by the time we would have got there, the market would have been closed so we bought a hot dog from a street vendor and watched the brokers and floor people come out. It started to rain and we slipped into the Federal building to take cover and discovered the building was where George Washington was sworn in as President. The round rotunda and marble floors of those old buildings are always amazing.
Even though it was raining we were able to catch a cab to the Empire State Building. I have always liked it - it was built during a period of style and class. The whole main floor is done in brown and gray marble - floor to ceiling. At the ticket counter they told us that there was zero visibility at the top but we went anyway. It was a bold faced lie. There were just too many people at the top and there was a storm coming in. We went to the 82 floor and then stood in line for a two floor ride to the top. As we tried to get out, they were bringing people in to get out of the storm. So paranoid about safety or should I say lawsuits. We went out the other door and were able to get the view from three sides before being directed to go inside. The lines going down were terrible but Steve managed to talk our way into one that got us down in a hurry.
Looking for kids toys we started walking down Fifth Avenue only to be completely stopped at a blocked intersection. People were backed up against the four corners like water against a dam. There were hundreds of police surrounding the block - blue uniforms and lots of blue motorcycles. Bill Clinton was in town for a political fund raiser and had brought all traffic to a standstill. We waited for quite a while for a chance to see him but never did and finally the traffic started to move again. Later, on the news it was reported that he had been an hour late and had held up traffic and the dinner. Picketers outside had apparently detoured his route to a side door. They were protesting this type of fund raising - they had voted for change and it still isn't in sight.
We did a little shopping, walked to the edge of Central Park, and then went back to the hotel for dinner and then I watched a movie while he tried to stay awake. Dinner was at the hotel steak house and we could see the Coke sign and the death toll number.
My hotel was only a couple of blocks away but at one in the morning I wasn't going to take a chance. I gave the driver $5 for a $2.50 ride. Back into the black hole. I dreamed all night that there were gays chasing me and trying to get into the room - sort of like that night we were in Lopburi and they kept banging on our door for prostitutes to come in.
Tuesday morning I got up late (for New York but not for Utah) and headed straight to the Javitts Center. It is located across town on the Hudson and not really close to anything else. I ran into Eric Bowden as I walked in (amazing with 50,000 people you can walk right into someone) and so he went with me to register as I didn't have a business card or a magazine with my name in the masthead. They didn't even ask me although the fellow ahead of me was getting some hassle. We went down to the LAN Times booth just to check in and find out where it was and what was happening.
I had an appointment with Intel back at the MacLowe Hotel which was right across from the Royalton. Eric wanted to go with me so we stopped by the Compaq booth to collect his watch. John Sweeny, Compaq's PR master was there and thrilled to see us. I told him that wanted a watch too and he asked me if I had a voucher. I said no. He then took Eric's voucher, looked at it for a second and then tore it in half and said, "Now you have a voucher!" Funny guy. They were nice Timex Indiglo watches and Eric was so happy because he didn't have a working watch.
We were supposed to catch an Intel Limo but couldn't see it so took a cab. We were a little early so stepped next door to have our shoes shined. They did the best shoe shine job I have ever seen and only charged $2. They used a towel to shine and sprayed it with water. I think it was a version of the spit shine.
The Intel demo was good. They have packaged a monitor, microphone, and software package for video conferencing and application sharing. It still has a ways to go but has some real potential. Frank Vaughn, another veteran PR guy, offered to pull the ISDN lines and pay the first three months charges if we want it. The fed us lunch while we experimented and then gave us the limo. It was the biggest one I've ridden in yet. We played with the TV and all the buttons. Frank said we could go where we wanted but the boundaries were New Jersey and Connecticut. We just had him drop Eric at the hotel and me at the convention center. While riding back the driver told me it cost about $55/hr to have car and driver and that a new one like this cost about $60K. A couple of times we were stalled at an intersection with cabs jammed in beside us and pedestrians walking all around us.
I got to the convention center just in time to catch the WordPerfect/Novell press conference where they announced their new suite of products. I have never heard the word "perfect" mentioned so often in such a short period of time. A couple of things looked exciting and competitive but some of the other things looked like smoke. Between Steve's questions and several of the WP sales people who were on the plane home, I gave my opinion a lot. I hope they are able to take the negative to build a better argument for their products rather than just getting discouraged.
Steve was at the event and we sat together. There were three huge screens across the darkened room. The one in the center was for the slide presentation and the ones on each side were for computer demoing. There were a couple of times where I could tell they switched systems just as something crashed. What ever they said overall must have been good because the stock which had dropped to 13 something came back by three points.
Afterwards, I met with Brian Chapman and Elden Greenwood for the Symmetry piece. Turns out that Elden is from Bancroft and seems to be a pretty good head. The product has some good pieces and I think that one of the Novell/WP advantages is the Symmetry/NetWare leverage. Steve joined us at the end and said that Elden was highly respected in the company and told him that they were counting on him to pull things together.
It was almost five when we finished. They were going to send me software and set up a meeting onsite. Taxis at that hour and especially since it had just rained were nonexistent so we just started walking back to the hotel. The areas were how should I say, scarier? More homeless and people just sitting around. Everywhere there were other people in suits walking so we didn't feel entirely out of place. Shops were dirtier and there was more objectionable material displayed. Such a mix of people.
Back at the hotel Steve started asking me questions about the market and all of the products and how they fit together. Like I said, I don't know if it was such a great thing because when we finished, he was saying, "How am I going to go out and sell this stuff against Microsoft and feel good about it?" Hopefully, he will be able to use my objections to build a more solid sales pitch. We ordered room service (blackened swordfish) and then I watched Pelican Brief while he tried to stay awake.
Next morning I stopped by and we walked back to the luggage store where he got his Eiffel bag (one of those on rollers) so he could exchange it for one with a good handle. He was going to do a little shopping and then head for the airport. We caught a cab and dropped him at the Marriott and I went back to the Javitts. I felt bad as we said good-bye. He is under a lot of stress as they are going to make big announcements next Thursday as to who stays and who goes. Everyone that I talked to was on edge. Steve has a six month severance built into his package so they can continue for a while. I helped him get a speaking spot at the UITA conference and that will be some good exposure for new job leads. I think he is doing a lot of soul searching about hi-tech and how much longer he will want to live in this volatile condition.
I spent the rest of the morning crusing the floor and looking for products and companies that fit in my new beat. It was a good feeling to be on the floor as just an editor. I didn't have to worry that I knew everything that was there like I did as director and I could just hone in on what interested me. I spent some time with Computer Associates and then met with Powersoft. Both of them are applications development tools.
BJ had sort of invited me to a Broadway show (Kiss of the Spider Woman). I got the impression that some people were wondering what I was doing at the show so when Eric called and said that he and Lenny wanted to meet with me I thought I had better do that instead. It was an unwelcome feeling that I now had a boss to report to. Michela is more of a friend than a boss. Anyway as it turned out, Lenny's kid was sick and he never showed so Eric and I went to the Sony reception.
We arrived late and were under dressed but got there just in time for the drawing for a Sony Trinitron TV. Neither of us won it. The building was what I would really call a global headquarters. It was a high-rise and the top three floors were white marble with stairways descending down. There were rooms around the entire top floor that had magnificent views of the city - all parts of Manhattan including Central Park. One room had black designer couches and lounges with a black grand piano. There was a dining room and a couple of sitting rooms and an in-house restaurant. My favorite was the sushi room. The bar was black granite with a little stream running down the middle of it. In the water were little black stones like a miniature oriental garden. Behind the stream was every type of sushi imaginable under chilled glass. Every room was decked out with Sony TVs and high dollar stereo equipment.
They were serving finger foods and periodically one with sushi would come out. The poor girl serving it would just about get mobbed. David Berger was there with Maggot his wife. Eric told me afterwards that he had been fired from Comm Week. Hard to believe that it took them that long to get that figured out what a slug he is.
We had just had our appetite whetted for sushi and since Lenny didn't show, we found a Japanese restaurant and tanked up on it. It was so good. Eric was so funny. He ordered seaweed salad. As he ate he kept saying, "Look at this, look at this!" to all of the ingredients. I would say, "Does it taste good?" He would say, "No." I had six pieces of tuna and yellow tail over rice and five crab and avocado rolls and five tuna rolls. Add miso soup, avocado and crab salad, and I was tanked on sushi. Seventy-five dollars plus tip - the same meal at Osaka in Provo would have been thirty-five.
I guess it still wasn't enough though because we went back to the Intercontinental where editorial was staying and had pie and ice cream. We met Brad and Eric H. and sat around and talked and laughed for an hour. I think the guy playing the piano was kind of irritated. After food we went up and watched Ace Ventura - Pet Detective. They had seen it the night before and wanted me to join in on the fun of all the one liners. The boys had been quoting from it through the entire Black Box trip. Pretty funny but some crude parts.
I got back to my hotel about 1 am and did some reading as I wasn't tired yet. I had finished President Hunter's biography on Monday and read some of his teachings that are at the end of the book. The book has been excellent to see that he was in many ways an ordinary man who was called to be a prophet. I told the boys how that I thought I had a testimony of him because of meeting him at Ginny and Michael's wedding but the night that I saw the press conference stating his calling, a feeling of great excitement and joy washed over me confirming the fact that he is a prophet.
I got everything done at the show that I needed to. On Wednesday I had wandered the entire floor and looked at everything that was interesting. On Thursday morning I just read several magazines and pulled out possible products for review. At about 12:30 I checked out, cabbed my bags to the Intercontinental and then walked down to FAO Schwartz to look for little Andy a welcome to earth present. I have the hardest time getting stuff like that because I see so many other things that look so great for everyone else I know. I finally found a little stuffed lamb and a goose for his mom. FAO is phenomenal. Every kind of toy you could ever imagine. And most of them are at 30% over retail!
I met the Erics at three and we caught a cab to the airport. Going out the traffic was better than coming in and the cab fair was only $36 instead of $47. We had a little time so grabbed a bite to eat and then boarded. Tons of people were on the plane home. I sat next to Mathew Kirk and Russ Warner was over one seat. Tracy Merrill and Liz Tanner were there as well. The plane was held for connections and then a storm moved in. We were four and a half hours delayed. We just hung out in the airport and talked. I spent some time with Russ - he is nervous like everyone else. We talked about b-school and TCG. Matt told me all the good places to water ski and snowmobile in Utah.
The weather was nice and warm in Salt Lake and I dropped the top and cruised home. It is such a great feeling to drive into this neighborhood. The gladiolas had started to bloom and they hadn't fallen over yet. I was excited to see how the concrete deck looked. I turned on both lights and it looked really nice - just as good as I had envisioned it.
Friday morning when I got up, they were already pouring the last piece of driveway. They didn't need anything so I went into the office for a few hours. Sometimes it seems that I don't really get much done. Steve came in to talk. Pat has a new baby boy. Eric H. and I talked for a while and then Dennis and I talked and went to lunch. Had to catch up with Ben on his trip. Janet called - I think with the kids gone she is really depressed. And by then it was time to leave with Pam for her family reunion.
The cement people really left a mess so I had to clean that up. Bryant and Seth came over. Pam and I finally got away about 5:30 and drove up to Timberlane. I thought it would be pretty barren because of the location but turned out to be quite beautiful. It is on the edge of Ashley National forest and had a beautiful view of the surrounding valleys.
We met several of her relatives and then had BBQd chicken for dinner. I spent some time talking to Chris her brother and then she and I went for a walk. After dinner we sat down by the fire for a long time and just watched it burn. We ended up sleeping on top of the motor home. I didn't sleep very good and had dreams of snakes everywhere in my sleeping bag.
Next morning we had breakfast, talked with some of the relatives and then inflated and filled the pool for little Jacob and Sarah. I had my books on Utah hikes and found that there was a good one that was not far from camp. Pam, myself, and Eric her brother-in-law decided to do it. It took about 4 hours and was not too difficult but really spectacular. The summit was just completely smooth and bare. We could see storms in the distance and several canyons below. The best part is that the entire day we didn't see another human being. It was a good hike and we really enjoyed it.