Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Best Thing for a Tuesday Morning

Are you having a tough time getting back to work this week? Did the short last week put you even farther behind (farther or further - need to ask Jamaal Wallace)? Well, I'm not going to answer for myself. But suffice to say, I'm still full from the meals I had this weekend with my parents: 112 Eatery, Manny's Steakhouse, and French Meadow Bakery (as well as some spinach and artichoke dip at Champp's in Richfield - the only place within 10 miles with ESPN Plus) and moving a little slowly as a result. Since I have to get up at 6:30 for a Purina meeting - no, they're on CST as well, just like to get an early start - I wanted to give everyone a look at one of my favorite video clips of all-time. I haven't figured out how to embed it into my blog, so enjoy the link... http://www.whoomp.com/articles/52/1/Trombone-Guy-gets-funky.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Happy Birthday Yesterday, Mom

No, I didn't forget Ila's bday; I did call last night. However, I never gave her a shout out on the blog though. So here it is... with a picture I know my whole family can appreciate. They may have the cool Guinness ads in Ireland's pubs, but they don't have gems like this found in Gate E of MSP airport. Other notes from ayer: Gtown beats Rutgers, Ila and Vince see show in NYC, started reading Catcher in the Rye (I may be the only person who hasn't ever read it nor have I had to or else I'd have read the Cliff's Notes), Project Runway reunion special left much to be desired (though seeing Daniel V. say "it's a mothafin' walkoff, never gets old), Nantucket Nectars Half & Half at lunch (great drink), and speaking of favorite beverages, began working a bit on a new biz project for VitaminWater. It was also George Washington's bday, but he can't receive bluemoutain cards over email. Happy Birthday again, Mom. Can't wait to see you and Dad tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Trent's Wedding

From Friday morning arrival Minneapolis to Friday afternoon arrival in Cleveland to tux shop (where they told me that my left leg is 1" longer than my right) to rehearsal dinner to bars to pizza to cell phone to pass out to wake up to freezing to bar to shower and dress to seating people to rolling out the cloth to walking down the aisle to I do's to releasing guests to pictures to drinking to reception entrance to long ass speeches and one "awesome" one from the best man to grace (which I believe is still going) to eating to more drinking to dancing and back to the bar to the after party in the hotel to serving (and chanting) to hard work to bathroom floor to bed to hotel waffles to bye's to Cleveland airport to Minneapolis. Enjoy...


Monday, February 20, 2006

Weak Week Delay

Back in the U.S. for good now... actually since late Thurs night/early Fri morn. Venezuela was a wonderful place to end the viaje with its delicious local dishes, sunny days (which I experience through windows in the office and at outdoor lunches) and beautiful scenery on our two long rides from and to the airport (pictured above). At higher points in the drive through the mountains there was about 10 feet of visability with the fog that you can see at the top of this pic. And for the record, the ride back didn't feel nearly as Proof of Life-esque. The local team was extremely hospitable and outgoing and took us out for drinks - they're known for their rum, so I had to sample it - and talked frankly (Steven A. Smith style, except it was interesting, not annoying) about the country's current situation with Chavez. For someone who's pretty politically uninformed, I knew the basics of his reign, but stories of mandated folk music on the radio and pictures in restaurants coupled with the powerful images of ranchos (shacks built up on top of each other on the hills) and other obvious poverty really were quite moving. Overall, it's hard to ignore the hardships and condition of the lower class in the countries I visited (especially close to the airports), but while parts of Caracas were incredibly nice, the poorness was impossible to deny. I had a fantastic trip and memorable experience and will be back in the U.S. and Minneapolis now after spending the weekend in Akron, Ohio at my friend's wedding. More on this coming shortly...

Monday, February 13, 2006

Last Stop: Venezuela

Left Sunday morning for Miami. Watched Georgetown lose on cbssportsline.com last night in the Hilton near the airport where I slept. Got on a plane at 7:30 this morning to Venezuela. On time. So far so good. Until we (Kim, Purina's head of research for Latin America, and I) arrived here. Were supposed to have a car waiting, but that's wasn't in the car(d)s. Finally got in touch with the driver and he was running a couple hours late. Yes, a couple hours. No, why would he call? Yes, we probably should have just taken a different taxi. No, it wasn't that simple. Because the major highway/bridge is not open, it takes anywhere from 1.5 to 5 hours to get into downtown Caracas. So, we waited it out... until of course we got a call from Nestle Venezuela saying the driver would not, in fact, be coming to get us. 12PM in meeting spot at airport. 2PM have another car set up. 215 on the road in a Ford SUV. 215-345 winding up and around the mountain, through haze, enclosed by steep mountain on our left and all types of vegetation on our right. 4PM first view of Caracas (the Western and poorer part according to our driver). 515PM arrive at the Embassy Suites. I would go into the drive, but I'll wait until I'm back in the U.S. to explain (and compare it to one movie in particular) so as not to freak my parents out any more than they should be. So the actual drive took about 3 hours - about average. At the hotel, went for a little run on the treadmill - was inspired by the other man in metallic light green spandex on the bike next to me. (Not metallic mint green like the convertible(s) that pulled up to the Sac O'Suds conveeenyence store. (Ralph Macchio went to my Middle School.)) Then went out to a restaurant in la castellana and ate some serious arepas and cachapas and drank melocoton juice. Now I'm back and feeling fat and tired and watching VH1 top 60 something video countdown - #56 is The Calling "Wherever You Will Go." And I know this was probably said thousands of times before but probably not in the last year: How does this kid who looks like Aaron Carter have a voice like Creed's lead singer? And speaking of Latin TV, why does every other channel have 1 of 2 shows on it: One is completely hectic with sirens going off, a live studio audience, 2 MCs - 1 short, pudgy old man in a suit and one 30 year old hot woman with fake boobs and minimal clothing and The Other is a soap opera with 2 characters with similar but less extreme features arguing about something very serious as the camera moves from close up of face to face. At least there's soccer. Time to sleep.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Shave the Day

With all the Super Bowl ad hype winding down, I still haven't purchase Gillete's new razor, which I fully intended to... that is, until receiving an email (thank, Jake) with this link - http://www.shopping.philips.com/norelco/ - yesterday morning (and pictured left). Now I'm thinking I should just stick with my Mach3 Power and use this already allocated $ from my "male grooming products" budget on something that can also help in the kitchen. Talk about killing 2 birds with one stone. Yes, I refrained from revising that idiom. Anyway, I'll probably end up getting both, but not because of Gillete's SB spot... rather because it was prophesized by The Onion a couple years ago in this article: http://www.theonion.com/content/node/33930/print/. Got my hair cut yesterday, finally (it was cornrow length) for Trent's wedding next weekend. Next question: do I shave on the wedding day or go with more manly stubble?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Back from Colombia Update: Still Alive, More Tired

Meet Michel. Friend of my friend, Omar, from college. Met him a couple times in Madrid when I studied abroad. Other than that, haven't seen or heard about him in 5 years... until during an IM conversation with omarp7, I learned that Michel now lives in Bogota. So I got his number (the easy part), and after work on Wednesday figured out how to call his cell phone from my hotel (the hard part). (The kind of easy and kind of hard part was deciding to actually holler at him - didn't really know him at all and would have been completely content going to the pool in my hotel and getting a decent night's sleep.) Back to the story though, he told me to meet him at his apartment (pictured above - yes, you get even more for your money than in Minneapolis) and we'd go out from there. And that's what I, and we, did.

First we went to dinner at a nice little restaurant around his apartment (Calle 81), had some Club Colombian beers and empanadas. Then we picked up a friend of his and made our way to the center of town (26th Street) where we went to a bar/club called Socorro. There we quickly switched from beers to a bottle of whiskey, which you buy from the bar with a few plastic cups of ice, and went into the basement to dance it up to the spinning of some British DJ whose been living in Bogota for the past 15 years. Yes, you will get some details that you don't care about at all, but some time down the line, I may be trying to find out the DJ's name and be looking for a Latin American rather than European name. You will also get the story as a list of events because 1. my English gets worse and worse the longer I'm out of the country and 2. I'm too tired to recount the events so that you feel like you were there. Lo siento. At about 1, I considered leaving solo, but at the suggestion was handed a beer and told that we had to go to one more place, "the Wednesday night hot spot in Bogota," before heading back to the hotel. And once again, that's what I/we did. More drinking (whiskey straight in plastic cup, bottle in Michel's back pocket) and more dancing until about 3 when we all (thankfully) decided to leave. (I may have had to get picked up at 5AM for my flight, but they all had to work full days, getting up only a couple hours later. Michel for the EU.)

Sorry about the lack of details, back let me say one more thing before I go (to sleep). I started off this post saying meet Michel, with the full intention of introducing him properly. I know I've failed, but at least understand this: Not only did he go out of his way to show me a great and authentic time (though out in Bogota at 2AM, there's not really a "touristy" thing), but he made me feel like we'd been friends for those 5 years, during which we probably never even heard each other's names. I was not just a guest or a guy he was bringing along, but a friend. He would not let me pay for a thing (minus the bottle of whiskey, which I insisted I had to do for the experience of being handed a bottle from behind the bar), he made sure I was having fun and made sure I felt included even if I couldn't keep up with the Spanish. So, though he'll never see this (though I should learn to never say never since I probably didn't think I'd be partying in Colombia on a Wednesday night), I want to say thanks to him and let you know how much respect and care I was treated with in the "scary, gang/ kidnapper/ drug dealer infested" city. So, hotel a little after 3. Up a little after 5. Cab at 5:45. Flight at 9. Home at 6. Goodnight.

P.S. Update on Bahamas advertising: With posters coming down and others continuing to be stolen, The Bahamas has now made selected campaign creative available for download (legally) on their website. Use the link to the right or click here to go directly: http://www.bahamas.com/bahamas/about/general.aspx?sectionid=135762&level=2&lid=HOMEFMA_135787

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Colombia Update: I'm Alive

And in the Hotel Casa Dann Carlton on Calle 94. Got in at around midnight last night - had to deplane after boarding in Houston because of faulty brakes - one of those times you're happy to get the f off and walk across the airport to a new gate. Seriously, the announcement went something like this 15 minutes after boarding: "Hi, this is the captain speaking, we're currently experiencing an issue with our brakes, they're not completely working, and we have a team below the aircraft working on the issue. I'll get back to you with details once I know if we'll be on our way or have to get a different plane." And even more seriously, when he announced 8 minutes later that we'd be deboarding and going to another gate to a plane without problems, everyone within shouting distance from me was complaining, huffing and puffing and really pissed. Sure, it sucks, but what's crazy was that they didn't seem nearly as (visibly) upset when the first announcement was made. If the captain got on and said, "Great news. These brakes should hold up at least til we land in 4 and a half hours. So let's leave 15 minutes late rather than 50!", would there have been cheers? This may be a good time to recap my travel issues over the last 3 weeks, not that you care, but because you may be surprised that I've remained so calm throughout (or you won't, but I am and I want to brag, and yes, you just have to take my word for it)...
Brazil: Arrive at Caesar Business 2 hours late (9AM) only to be told that there is no room for me yet. They think it should open in an hour or so. Can I use your business center? Sure, internet cards are "x" reias. You're kidding. Give me one for the hassle. No, okay, I'll go take a walk in my jeans and sweater and carry my laptop because I don't trust you.
Chile: Arrive at Hotel Intercontinental at 11PM. Sorry, we don't have your reservation. Why, it was made with these people from Nestle. We have theirs, just not yours... and we're completely booked. It was made with this person by the same person. Call your manager. Okay, we can get you a room tonight, but not yet. Go to the bar and wait. 1AM, your room is ready, but you have to check out tomorrow, we are full. Check into other hotel mid-afternoon the next day.
Argentina: Can I have a late checkout my flight's not til 10PM? Sure, it will be $100. You're not full, can I just stay til 4 or 5 or so. Yes, for $100. But a night is only $150... okay, just hold my bags while I walk around the city sweating and getting blisters (my sneaks are packed) for 6 hours and then overcharge me for the cab to the airport. Thanks.
Mexico: Minneapolis to Houston - sorry running a little late because there's a problem with the pressure on the plane. Actually, new plane, new gate, but not too late. No big deal... yet. I only have 1 hour to get off the plane in Houston and get on the plane to Mexico though. 45 minutes from land time, 35 from deplane, told I won't make it, sprint across airport, on tram, sprint more, make it just in time. Way back, Mexico gate changed 3 times. Had a full row to myself though, until a dude not only sat in the aisle seat, but put his large carry-on under the middle seat in front of us. Thanks Dick. (Dick was not his name, but that's what I'm calling him - capital D.)
Colombia: Minneapolis to Houston - no problem!!! Houston, you know the drill. Got into Bogota at 11PM, supposed to have a car. Not there. Phone - not working. Took a taxi, which was fine, but was a little nervous since I was told that our Citibank team never rolls around without security and in an armored car.
So anyway, now I’m here. After a day of 3 groups, starting at 8AM and ending at 9PM. Hopefully will have a chance to see the city tomorrow. Then get on a 9AM plane Thursday morning, supposed to get back to MN at 5PM. I’ll take the over on that bet. Looking like a promising or even "cant-miss"miss in Houston with only 1 hour to get across the airport and through customs. Either way, as I said, it’s all good… I’m chill. Though that word makes me a little annoyed. Relax.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Pittsburgh Loses

Georgetown beat Pittsburgh 61-58 this morning (or afternoon depending on time zone and how late you sleep on weekends). Hit up a bar Champp's (yes, 2 p's) in Richfield, MN - a little outside of Minneapolis. Total local bar, but after a couple Sunday mornings in a row there, we're totally in with Barb, the bartender. Only people interested in watching ESPN Full Court games - Big East action - and I was clearly the only person in the entire bar excited when Gtown hung on to oust the #9 team in the nation (barely). So threw back some brewski's, celebrated quickly and more quietly then normal, and came back to the pad for a solid 2 hour nap. Watched the Super Bowl with a bunch of peeps at a friends house. Pittsburgh won that less important game. At least that city won't be totally depressed tonight. Off to Colombia in the A.M.

Oh Mexico

Now do you see why Ricardo's "really proud of my Mexican heritage" and thus decided to make maracas and churros and wear a poncho on his multiple NEXT dates? Note yellow billboard - this is why I'm there - Pedigree, spending like crazy and stealing share from all Purina's brands both high and low priced. View's from my hotel room at the Intercontinental in Mexico City. Thinking about bringing my racquet next time. Tampa Bay Bucs cheerleaders were staying there as well... don't know why since I didn't want to interrupt their breakfast... and I was too much of a wimp to approach the table of 15. 4 countries down, 2 to go.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Controversial Bahamas

As you know, one of my clients is The Bahamas, specifically its Ministry of Tourism. Well, we recently launched our new OOH (out of home) campaign in New York City. With our "Escape Everyday Life" message, we've targeted heavily one place New Yorkers look to escape (and are part of their daily routine/life): The subway. Stations and trains alike. The rush hour commute. The weekday grind. Penn Station crowds. Our goal is to provide an escape (in the beautiful shots of The Bahamas and witty advertising) and remind you that an incredible and unique vacation destination is waiting for you (and not too far away - less than 60 miles from Florida). However when I was in Mexico, I learned that a few of our ads were stirring the pot so to speak. (And that's not how I usually speak.) This one shown in particular has caused the most hullabaloo. (That's definitely not how I speak.) Providing an "Instant Escape" this ad shows subway riders how to pass the time practicing their bonefishing technique. Harmless fun? Not at all. Read one recent review:
Quick response: I can assure you that The Bahamas does not want you dead. Neither does Fallon. Just as the title's quite clever, our communications were meant to be and thus, should not be taken literally.
However, a couple other ads have also been found "in contradiction to the rules and regulations of the MTA." Note: CBS Outdoor/Viacom and the MTA both approved every single ad before posting. Those in question - turning your subway seat into a hammock (against one seat per person policy - Is it true they are now ticketing $50 for putting your bag down on an empty seat in an empty train?) and subway scuba (against moving from car to car while train is in motion), have been taken down (which we and The Bahamas advised - wouldn't want the same people who didn't know coffee was hot to actually toss their scarf and cell phone out onto the tracks).
Our ad that reads, "Just so no to pants," is still up... for now. Please be advised that you should not hop onto the A train with your bottom half exposed. You can wear shorts... though you'd be more comfortable in minimal attire in The Bahamas.
See the NY Times article as well: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/01/nyregion/01ads.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
These bloggers may be in need of a vacation. Don't worry many of Bahamas' hotels have wireless internet.
P.S. For those concerned about our proposed NYC escapes, know this: it's safer in The Bahamas.