Monday, August 9, 2010

Jimmy Vanessa - Hero!

That is right! I'm talking about Jimmy Vanessa, Class Clown of Charter Oak High School class of 1978. I went to school with Jimmy Vanessa from first grade all the way through high school. There are times when I think the reason we graduated was because they needed our desk for someone else.

Jimmy and I were in Little League Baseball together. His dad was our coach. The first year was the Delaplane Truckers. Worst team ever. The following year was as Savage Mazada where somehow be became a much better team. Jimmy would go on to eventually play AAA ball.

So how does any of this make Jimmy a Super Hero? It doesn't. Fast forward 30 plus years. My wife and I are having breakfast with Jimmy and his dad. Interesting that Jimmy doesn't have to work on a Wednesday morning. Why? Because he is on Holiday. Turns out that Jimmy has been suspended by his employer "Stater Brothers". Why? No official word has been given.

On the day that Jimmy was suspended he was driving his rig when there was a terrible accident. He used his rig to keep people from driving into the accident and as requested by the Highway Patrol he helped direct traffic.

I'm thinking to myself, Stater Brothers would naturally want to take pride in their employee of 18 years. They would want to brag about him, give him a plaque, donate $50,000.00 to his favorite charity, but no. As the old saying goes "No Good Deed Will Go Unpunished". Jimmy made the newspapers, CNN, ABC ...etc. Instead of good press for Stater Brothers, they are getting just the opposite. Jimmy has been suspended and as a loyal friend, you won't see my shopping at Stater Brothers while Jimmy is suspended. How about you?

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Week on the Road

I travel a lot for my work. Some travel more than I do, but most don't. When you travel as much as I do you miss your family and your home. That is why it is always so much nicer when a member of my family is able to accompany me. This past week, my wife Carmen took vacation time off from her work so that she could be with me.

Monday night. I'm back from work and spend the rest of the evening packing. Carmen has packed her own suitcase, a bag of food and our plug in cooler. I have packed my suitcase, computer bag, the company booth, brochure rack and spare laptop.

Tuesday morning comes way too early. We get up, shower, dress and hit the road by 6:00am. We will be traveling down to Anaheim. It will take us 13 hours to reach our destination for dinner. We travel down 101 South and stop at eleven of our customers hotels. We eat both breakfast and lunch in the car as I am driving. We make good time until we head to the last hotel of the day in Hermosa Beach. Traffic comes to a crawl. Turns out there was an accident. Once we get clear It of it, we get to the hotel minutes after the GM left for the day. That means I will be returning to Hermosa beach tomorrow.

We arrive just before 7pm at the house of my childhood friend from school, Dean (Call) Lent. This is one amazing woman. Not only is she instrumental in putting on our high school reunions, but she has a family (village) of 8. That's right, her and her wonderful husband Tom have six children and they all live at home. They have a beautiful family and being a mom is more than a full time job. We enjoy a delicious dinner and great conversation, but now it is time to head to the hotel. We have had a long day.

We pull into the hotel where I made our reservations only to find that they oversold the hotel and have walked us to a hotel all the way in Long Beach. Did I mention that my meetings and conference are in Anaheim? We get there and even though the General Manager had assured us that the first night would be complimentary because of his mistake, the hotel in Long Beach knows nothing about this. Doesn't matter, I give them my credit card and we finally get into our room. When you travel as much as I do, you learn to roll with the punches. It is 10pm and we pass out.

Next morning waits for no one. It is bright and early. I get a call from another childhood classmate. It is Jimmy Vanessa. He thought it he could not get to the restaurant in Anaheim for breakfast until perhaps as late as 8:30, but he was wrong. There was no traffic and it is 7:30am and he is waiting for us. We quickly get ready, hop into the card and meet him at Marie Calendars. I never really had many if any classes with Jimmy in school. What we had in common was little league baseball. I was in little league for the first two years. Later I would discover that swimming was my sport. What was special about this breakfast was that Jimmy brought his dad. His name is Coach. I'm pretty sure this last name is Vanessa, but I don't think I actually ever knew his first name.

The first year we were on a team named Delaplane Truckers. Worst team in the history of Little League. We didn't win even one game. Besides Jimmy and myself, there was Craig Schaeffer, Danny Hancock. Richard Mendez was our catcher. Side note about Richard, he had the coolest hair cut ever. It was short on the top and long on the sides, just like the guy that rode the motor cycle in the movie Animal House. I can't remember the other members of the team. My best memory is of the last game. Coach took the worst players on the team, like me and asked us what position would we like to play. I got to play 3rd base. Usually I played center field where I would drop ever ball hit to me while I tried to use the basket catch cause I wanted to be like Willie Mays. So, I'm playing 3rd base and a line drive is hit right too me. I have never seen a ball travel this fast. I raise my glove and to my amazement, I actually catch it and try to run down the runner from 2nd base, but the short stop and 2nd basemen forgot to cover 2nd. I get back to my position and the 3rd base coach from the other team looks at me and says "Nice catch son". It is the best play I will ever do in baseball, and I will never forget it.

Following year, we will be on a team called Savage Mazda. We were not that bad. Jimmy was starting to become a real pitcher. He would eventually play AAA ball. There will be more on Jimmy in another blog entry. Did you know that Jimmy is a hero? It is true!

So we are all having breakfast, and it was so good seeing coach. He used to be taller. I learn for the first time that he was in the Marines. He arrived in Korea the day the war ended. We chat like there is no tomorrow and next thing you know, it is time to go. I have to visit the hotel in Hermosa Beach and then get to a board meeting in Anaheim.

There is a reason they are called "Board Meetings", but it should be spelled differently. We wrap up the meeting late and get over to the "Women in Hotels" reception. It is a small gathering. It is our first time doing this. We will improve it over time. Recognizing women in the Hotel Industry is very important to me.

Carmen and I go out to dinner with a friend of ours, then it is back to the hotel and to bed. The next day is the conference with educational seminars a lunch, trade-show, meeting, followed by a town-hall meeting and dinner. The town-hall and dinner was put on by AAHOA. Asian American Hotel Owners Association. The Indian hotel community. They have hired a comedian from their region (Gujarati) of India. He sat next to me until it was time for him to perform.

Tired and exhausted, we return to our hotel. Tomorrow we checkout and drive north to San Luis Obispo. On the way, just before Santa Maria, we stop and pick blue berries. They give us a small bucket. After we start picking, we realize just how huge that bucket really is. It takes a long time to pick blue berries, but we really enjoyed picking them.

We arrive in San Luis Obispo and checkin to the La Cuesta Inn. We are meeting the owner and a good friend, Cynthia Woods for lunch along with her husband and her long time friend Terri Raey. Lunch was fantastic. Not only was the food good, but I had not seen Cynthia and Terri for about 10 years. It was so good to see them again.

We get back to the hotel and enjoy the Jacuzzi. I want Carmen to relax. That is the point of her coming with me. We head back to the room and both of us fall asleep, but just for an hour. It is time to head up to Jennifer and Miles house. Jennifer used to work for me and I consider her a dear friend. She showed us her toes.

She is married and has 5 year old twin girls. They are so cute. They also have a son 12 and a daughter who is a teenager. Enough said. We enjoyed their house, garden, food, wine and conversation. Miles is a techie like me and so we got to chat about our Google phones. We are such nerds. It is 10:00pm. Where did the time go. We get back to our room and fall asleep.

Why does morning start so early? We race to shower, get dressed and over to McClintocks in San Luis Obispo. We are having breakfast with one of my long time great friends, Susie Norris and her family. Susie amazes me. She is such a fine human being. She started being a foster parent while she was still single. She takes children who have parents with serious drug addictions and has the patients of an angel. She takes such great care of those kids and so loving. She has adopted two of these children and today she and her husband are fostering a little girl. I love this woman dearly and consider myself lucky to have her as a friend. Time to take the kids to dance class and Carmen and I head back to the hotel to enjoy the jacuzzi and take a nap.

Next thing we know, it is time to head to my brother Bob's house. He lives with his long time girl friend and the house really looks wonderful. I wish we could visit more often. We should have brought our swim suites has they have installed a hot tub. They take us to dinner. The time flies by so quickly and it is time to return to the hotel. By the way, they are camera shy.

It is Sunday. We hit the road by 8:30 and drive home. We eat in the car. While we enjoyed spending time with our friends and family, it is so good to be back home with the rest of our family. Now you know what a week on the road is like for me. I will be at work the next day at 9am.