business travel.

Our friendship with Frank had sort of disintegrated, and we never really figured out why.  We had the episode at his shore house where he invited us down and then disappeared for the night.  We also had extended an olive branch by inviting him to Sandy’s family’s house on Cape Cod – he showed up late, went to bed early, then disappeared on his bike for the entire next day with Dave.  When he returned (we had saved some dinner for him), he had two lobsters – one for him, one for Dave – which he boiled up, ate, then cleaned up and went to bed.

Rich, Sandy and I spent a lot of time speculating about what it was that we did, and ultimately came to the conclusion that it was a combination of our interests drifting apart, and Frank’s lifestyle becoming a little more upscale than ours.  Frank had a decent job, and between Rich, Sandy and I we rarely had two nickels to rub together.  The result of this was a lot of mooching off Frank, which I’m sure was pretty irritating.

At the same time, it was weird because Frank always had an intense loyalty toward his friends – he considered his friends to be his family, and the longer he’d been your friend, the more loyal he was.  

It was particularly tough for me because he was my best friend, and usually when you have a falling out with a friend, you know what caused it.  Between his disappearance (and the simultaneous disappearance of our mutual friend Kenny) and the falling out with Melting Hopefuls, I was pretty insecure about my own personality.

With my new job, I was finding myself with lots of opportunities to travel on business.  After my trip with Danny to San Francisco, I had a trip to Las Vegas for a trade show.  I went with five or six people from the office, and we stayed at The Mirage.

Having never been to Las Vegas before, I was blown away by the sheer tackiness of it all.

On my first night, the bunch of us went out for dinner to the Hard Rock Cafe.  While we were walking, a man approached us with an armload of magazines – at arm’s length, they looked like punk fanzines.

In Manhattan, when some stranger is passing out flyers or zines or something, you generally don’t bother to say “No, thanks.”  You just take what he hands you, and then deposit it in the next trash can you pass.  It’s sort of a weird, unwritten rule of street etiquette.

So I grabbed the fanzine from the guy and kept walking.  After about ten feet, I noticed the expressions on my colleagues’ faces, as they stared at me, wide-eyed.

“Making plans for later?” one of them asked.

I looked down at what was in my hand, and realized that it was, basically, a catalog of prostitutes.  With explicit photography.

“Jesus!” I yelped. “What the fuck?!”  I raced to the next trash can and threw out the magazine like it was coated in smallpox.

That’s what my travel experiences were like.  Every time I went somewhere, I was accompanied by road warriors who had already been there.  They knew all the best restaurants, all the good places to go drink.  They knew how to travel, and I soaked it up like a sponge.

In Las Vegas, they took me to a steak place in the desert where you chose your steak from behind a window and they grilled it up for you on the spot.  In Dallas, they took me to the place where JFK was assassinated, and then out to a local country/western bar.  In San Francisco, they took me to a decent Italian restaurant that was off the beaten path. “When you come to San Francisco and take clients out to dinner,” they said, “come here.  It’s not a touristy place, it’s an authentic place.  People don’t want you taking them out to dinner where the out-of-town tourists go, they want you taking them to the places they would go.  It would be like having a vendor come to New York and take you to the Statue of Liberty.”

Once, I came back with my expense reports and receipts, and presented them to Bob for his approval.  He needed to sign my expense reports in order for me to be reimbursed.

“What’s this ‘Taco Bell’?” he asked from the other room.

“That’s lunch.”

“You had lunch at Taco Bell?”

“Sure,” I said.  “Twice.”

He walked into my office and stood in front of my desk.  “Do you eat Taco Bell when you’re at home?”

“Sometimes,” I responded.

“Not when you’re on the road,” he said.  “You’re on the road.  We’re asking you to leave your wife for a week and live out of a suitcase, making money for the company.  We’re not paying you anything extra for that.  When you’re on the road for me, I want you to live like a king.”

“What do you mean?” I was puzzled.  

“I mean you stay in the best hotel.  You eat the best meals.  You go to the best bars.  The company pays for your alcohol.  You go out to dinner, you pay for everything. Go off and see the sights, take taxicabs everywhere, I don’t care what it costs.  If I’m going to make you leave your home for a week at a time, you’re going to live well while you’re gone.  No more Taco Bell, understand?”

That week I saw an expense report from one of my colleagues, a sales rep who spent a lot of time on the road.  It was one month’s expenses, totaling more than $10,000.

I wished, desperately, that Frank was still in the picture.  I could have paid him back tenfold.  In the winter and early spring of 1994 I must have gone on a half dozen trips – I remember counting 21 different airplanes in a 30-day period, including connecting flights.  The boss wanted me to live like a king, and I never was asked to share a room with a coworker.

Frank could have come with me on every trip, stayed in my room for free, eaten free meals and drank free booze – it only would have cost him the price of the airfare.  We would have had a blast.

I did go back to San Diego in March or so, and looked up Keith, Paul and Penny from Silver Girl while I was there.  This visit, they weren’t as accommodating as the previous one.  Penny was a flight attendant and she wasn’t even in town.  Paul had some other engagements planned.  One night, Keith picked me up and we went out for dinner.  

“Are you online?” he asked.

“Not anymore,” I said.  “I have trouble being online.  I can’t control myself.”

“What do you mean?”

~ by Al on April 6, 2009.

One Response to “business travel.”

  1. […] story I neglected to tell in this entry, which is a very good story.  At least I don’t think I told it anywhere; I searched and […]

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