Friday, January 09, 2004


I've been off the air for a few days, but its not the result of the incredible snow-followed-by-ice storm that hit the Seattle area, which was impressive even by Midwestern standards (though most of the folk by the Sound don't have enough data to compare it to. Check out the Mystic Forest site for some pics). Instead of enjoying snow-days in Seattle, I was in Rhode Island, working on a new gig for Hasbro.

As always, I cannot talk about the nature of the project itself, except to say that it looks challenging and if everything works, it will be a lot of fun. I can talk about the trip, and give a few thoughts about being back East, in a place where 20 degrees and snowing is considered typical weather.

First off, I have to really give credit to the people at Alaska Airlines. I used this space about two months back to whine bitterly about the fallen state of US Consumer Aviation, but Alaska gives me hope. Hot meals in the main cabin. Seats far enough apart for human knees. Hand-held movie Dig-E-Players with about twenty films, five network shows, and ten channels of music (yeah, they charge, but previously it was five bucks for headsets). And most of all, a cabin crew that actually seemed to be glad to be there. Compared to USAir, Alaska gave me hope. I've seen news reports that USAir is selling off its assets, and I hope it loses out entirely to smaller operations that deliver on customer service.

These flights were so good that we were grounded for an hour by the worsening weather in Seattle on the way out, and on the way back were in the business-traveler's nightmare - a plane filled with families with small children, and I STILL think they were good flights.

Other downside - we flew into Logan, which is a humungous airport, and rented a car to get down to Providence (The Client is in Pawtucket, which is right on the Massachusetts/Rhode Island border). We experienced the horrible combination of snow and Boston drivers, who in comparison to their Seattle brethren, are fearless and much, much crazier. And we got lost in Providence itself, a rat-maze of one-way streets and do-not-enter signs (An situation that would be repeated several times through the next day, including when we were following natives and THEY got lost).

My fellow consultant and I were treated like the Pros from Dover - Excellent hotel (The Westin), good company, and a good meal out 10, a Steak-and-Sushi joint. They figured that we were both based out of Seattle, it was a safe bet. They were half right, as my traveling companion was raised vegetarian, and though he now is comfortable with cooked flesh, it is expecting too much to get him into raw fish. Our hosts were gracious, intelligent, and excited about the project, a very contagious combination, and I'm looking forward to it as well.

But I saw the businessman's Rhode Island - hotels and service people, a cluster of upscale resturants around the river. A bubble within the greater world, untouched by locality. Most of the local color came from the fish-hook accents from the waitresses and the heavy breading on most of the food (not the sushi, thank goodness). I managed lunch the second day at a local diner, which gave me more local color than I had experienced in the previous two days. I'd like to have time for Lovecraft's Rhode Island, but not this time, though I kept getting the feeling he was at the edge of my vision, in a Rhode Island proud of its immigrant roots and Innsmouth looks.

I could get used to this kind of consulting, but I've paid a small price in the form of physical exhaustion and I am all worn out. More later.