How You Know You’ve Spent Way Too Many Nights In Hotels

I’ve been in this job since May of 1998. A job that requires a lot of travel — usually a couple of flights to get to some distant city in the USA on Sunday or Monday and a couple of flights to get back home that Friday or Saturday. And in between — a lot of hotel stays. My employer has, for a long time, had a ‘preferred’ relationship with the extended Hilton chain of hotels — Embassy Suites, Doubletree, Hampton Inn, Homewood Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, and so on — which means we get a better rate if we stay there, which of course keeps my employer happy.

You stay in Hilton properties sixty nights in a year, they give you “Diamond” status and you get the occasional upgrade and so on … but you also get increased points for your stays, and points translate into free rooms at a later date, which get to use, which makes me happy and makes Carole even happier. We once stayed in a Hilton a couple of blocks from the Arc de Triomphe in downtown Paris — six nights — for free. It would have been something like $800 a night had we been paying.

But today I found out what happens if you stay in Hilton properties 1,000 nights (and you manage to earn Diamond level status for ten or more years) …

I got a nice little welcome kit in the mail today, certifying me as Lifetime Diamond, meaning that I’ll always have Diamond status even if I don’t actually stay enough nights in a given year to earn that status. The kit included a luggage tag, of which one can never have too many; a metal membership card instead of a cheap plastic one; a little note telling me how awesome I am; and a pair of free Bose Soundsport earbuds. I’ll probably wind up just giving those to Carole because if I take them along with me on trips I’ll just wind up losing them.

Still, even though I guess it’s kind of nice to be all Mr. Lifetime Diamond and that, it’s also a little sobering to realize just how many nights away from home I’ve had over the years. A thousand nights over 22 years (and occasionally nights in other chains as well, which obviously don’t count toward my Hilton total) is really a hell of a lot.

So hey. I’m Mr. Lifetime Diamond.

Woo!

(Parenthetically, this kit — and the status it bestowed — arrived three days before I’m coincidentally scheduled to roll over the odometer and become a million mile flier on United. That’s nothing compared to the poor bastards who fly every day or who fly to Japan or Europe each week, but it’s a lot for people who do what I do.)

Lemur Art

Carole and I spent Memorial Day weekend down in Durham, NC, where we lived in the mid-1990s. (I lived there from the fall of 1993 to the spring of 1998; Carole was there from early 1996 to the spring of 1998.) Though we’d been back for a few weddings in the late 1990s, we hadn’t been back just for fun in almost twenty years.

We did all manner of nifty things — we hung out at the Sarah Duke Gardens at Duke University (that’s where we had our wedding ceremony in 1997), we ate a lot of tasty Southern food that we really didn’t need, we attended a Sunday morning service at Duke Chapel, we toured the Oscar-Mayer Wienermobile, we visited with friends… and we got to watch lemurs finger-painting!

I used to volunteer (pre-Carole) at the Duke University Primate Center (now known as the Duke Lemur Center) and have always had a fondness for the place. It’s changed a lot since my days there in 1993-1995 — much nicer buildings and equipment, much better education programs, you name it. They’re also much more savvy these days about extracting money from well-meaning and lemur-loving donors.  For the right amount of money, you can be Keeper For A Day and experience feeding and tending to the lemurs; you can visit them in the woods and watch them merrily bounding about and climbing and leaping and stuff; you can ‘adopt’ a lemur and get periodic photos and updates of your special animal, and so on. (If you’re in the Durham, NC area and want a tour, click here. They have all kinds of cool opportunities.)

Aaaaaaand — you can paint with lemurs.

Which we did.

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Okay, you don’t actually get to do the painting. You get to pick two or three colors of lemur-safe finger paint and then sit back and watch while the lemurs track around on canvas boards trickled with the paint. The lemurs get bits of grapes to encourage them to get involved and they seem to enjoy it. A DLC employee named Faye did the paint-drizzling and grape-supplying and two black and white ruffed lemurs named Rees and AJ did the actual painting. It was a lot of fun.

Because we’re basically loons, we brought along some of our stuffed animals, which you’ll see in the photos above– two ringtailed lemurs (Mama Lemur and Baby Lemur), a Coquerel’s sifaka named Little Dude, and a slow loris named Lorelei. Faye wasn’t fazed by us walking in with stuffed animals; I imagine she’s seen weirder things.

As you’ll see in the photos, the lemurs crawled around on quite a few canvases but we were only allowed to pick three to take home with us. We took our three back home and had them framed. We assume the ones they kept will fetch high prices on the “lemur art” market.

Stonewall 50

We missed the official anniversary of the Stonewall Riots by five days, but better late than never.

I’d like to keep this short and simple and just say two things:

  1. As far as I’m concerned, you can love whoever the hell you want.
  2. Anyone who says the battle for LGBTQ rights is all over and “won”, hasn’t been paying attention. We’ve come a long way but the fight is not over.

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Photo Follies

I travel a lot for work. I have a smartphone. It has a camera. I’m often pretty bored.

The end result of all that is that I take and upload a lot of photos from my travels to the Google Maps photo repository. Google then uses them in location listings.

No one has to upload their vacation snaps and other photos to Google Maps. But once you choose to, Google tends to assume you want to keep on doing so and will send your phone suggestions to upload your most recent shots. As I said, I’m often pretty bored, so I’ve uploaded a lot of photos. I’m a Google Maps “Local Guide” Level 10 user, as a result.

And because I’ve uploaded so many photos and because I’m a Level 10 user, my photos often wind up being the cover photo of many locations on Google Maps (if the business or location owner hasn’t uploaded their own, that is). And that means that occasionally a shot I took in a moment of frivolity winds up being the public face of a theoretically reputable business or tourist attraction or whatever.

The most egregious example of this is the entry for the Friendly’s restaurant in Williston, VT.  Take a look. That photo at the top of some ranch dressing with rainbow sprinkles on top? That’s one of mine. I don’t know why, out of the dozens of photos I’ve taken at that Friendly’s that one wound up being the profile photo. But it did. And it’s been viewed (as of just now) 210,434 times.

And that’s not even my most popular photo. My top two are:

  • My all-time champion, with 508,723 views: A photo of a half pepperoni-and-black-olive/half sauerkraut-and-ham pizza Carole and I shared one night at the Marion’s Piazza in Oakwood, Ohio. Zillions of pizza photos have been uploaded to their Google Maps entry… but which one wound up as the profile photo? Mine. (In my defense, the ham-and-sauerkraut pizza was amazingly tasty.)

It’s a strange world we live in, my friends.

What We Did On Our Summer Vacation, Day 14 (Homeward Bound)

The 14th and final day of our Baltic Sea vacation was Tuesday, August 28. We had breakfast at the Axel Guldsmeden hotel, packed up, and took a taxi back to the Copenhagen airport. I was still not feeling super-awesome, but better than I had the prior day… but even so, I didn’t want to have to drag all our stuff back to the train station and then take a train.

We were amused at the airport by the GIANT shopping-mall-sized duty-free store that you HAD to go through to get from security to one’s gate. We hung out at the very nice, and expansive, SAS lounge and had snacks and so on. Then we boarded our SAS to IAD flight around noon, flew across the Atlantic, and landed at IAD around 3 pm local time. Thanks to the Customs app I’d downloaded, we made it through US customs and transferred our bags back to United in two shakes of a lambs’ tail and caught our final flight, IAD to BTV without any issue. We were back on the ground in Vermont by 5:30 pm local time… all our bags made it there as well, and we Lyfted home.

Maggie was very pleased to see us. (We presume our other two cats were pleased as well, but they maintained a diplomatic reserve.)

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