Tuesday, August 23, 2016

So Long, Las Vegas (part 3)

Part 3

As I mentioned briefly in part 2, towards the end of our road trip I was invited to interview for a job in Cleveland later in the week. I was thrilled, of course, though it meant that I'd only have one day of down time between the road trip and the trip to Cleveland. But when has a quick turnaround ever stopped me? Sleep is for the weak.

I still feel like it may not be appropriate to publicly reveal the name of company that interviewed me, as the position is by no means guaranteed. However, it's going to be difficult to tell this story without referring to some sort of company, so let's just say I interviewed at a prominent Midwestern...soup company. American Soup.

They flew me out to Cleveland on Thursday afternoon (so fancy), had a driver pick me up at the airport (so fancy), and put me up at a DoubleTree out near Crocker Park, which is where their new headquarters are about to open. The driver was actually one of my favorite parts, and I think it's okay to reveal his name--Danny Conway, owner of Danny Boy's Transportation. Born and raised in Cleveland, Danny exhibited the same sort of good-natured grumpiness that my grandfather used to have, while at the same time displaying a serious commitment to his work. He constantly talked up Cleveland and all its advantages, eager to point out local sights like the Ford plant and the offices of the Plain Dealer. He drove me everywhere during my stay--to and from the hotel, the interview, the airport--and he was always punctual and friendly. If you're ever in Cleveland and you need a ride, be sure to look him up.

Since my interview wasn't until the next morning, I had a night to relax and mentally prepare, for which I was extremely grateful. And Cleveland seemed ready to help me relax--much like in the rest of the Midwest, everyone was kind and gracious. First of all, if you haven't stayed at a DoubleTree, you need to know that they give you warm, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies upon check-in. I have something of a sweet tooth, so the cookie was appreciated. Because I packed too quickly, I realized that I had cleverly brought neither chapstick nor lipstick, so my chapped mouth and I decided to walk over to Crocker Park, which is one of those bougie outdoor malls, lots of nice shops and dining. If you're in Chicago, think The Streets of Woodfield outside Woodfield Mall. If you're in Vegas, think Town Square. It's also the home of American Soup's new headquarters, which honestly do look beautiful, all sleek and modern. I hear tell there are heated walkways for the winter, and a sculpture garden. I eventually found a Sephora and gave $18 to the makeup gods--far more than I normally would have paid--for some Belgian lipstick with "Amazonian butter," whatever that means.

I hate to admit it, but the lipstick is delightful. So soft.

That night I jumped in the hotel's hot tub, and I watched the Olympics, because international competition is fun. Seriously, now that the Olympics are over, I've lost all desire to watch TV--which is probably a good thing.

I woke up bright and early at 6 a.m. on Friday--no small feat for a night owl like me--and had some breakfast. Spent lots of time in the bathroom preening until I looked so. damn. hirable.

I'd give me a job, wouldn't you?

Then Danny Conway picked me up, and we headed to American Soup's old headquarters, just a few miles away. 

Because they're in the middle of moving to a new building, the old building was in the process of being dismantled; my initial host, the same recruiting manager with whom I'd had the phone interview, kept insisting that the walls were normally better decorated, that the common areas were normally bustling, but the slight chaos didn't bother me at all. It felt like being inside a giant movie studio, where one set was being torn down so that another could go up. The general atmosphere was one of excitement rather than frustration--every employee we came across seemed in good spirits, thrilled about the new location.

The recruiting manager gave me a tour of the whole building. I didn't realize how much soup companies do in-house. For example, when you're in the grocery store and you see a picture on a can's label of a hot bowl of soup, appetizing cubes of potatoes and clusters of beans glistening in a dark, hearty broth, that picture isn't a stock photo--American Soup takes its own pictures in its own photo studio. And when you hear a heartwarming, homey jingle for soup on your TV, American Soup has actually recorded it in its own recording studio.

Other highlights of the tour included two puppies, one of which was an 8-month-old puggle.

After the tour I met with the woman who would be my direct manager, whose elaborate tattoo sleeve rivaled my own. The position for which I'm interviewing is that of an editor, reviewing and reworking the written copy on cans of soup--but not just any cans of soup. American Soup has several different divisions, and the division I'd be working with doesn't handle your typical Chicken Noodles and Minestrones, but rather the soups that are a little out there, creating surprising--even funny--combinations of flavors from around the world. The interview with my prospective manager was somewhat more traditional, but by no means boring--we discussed my relevant experience, the reasons for my interest in the position, and so on. Then I talked for a while with the head of artwork for the same division, as the position would require me to liaise not only with the artists, but also with the more business-minded individuals in the company.

From there I was escorted downstairs to their cafe--now closed thanks to the move--where I had invisible coffee with a group of writers, artists, and new product developers. They seemed like my kind of people, witty and whip-smart (not to toot my own horn). Three of us even had the same haircut. They asked important questions of me, like how I felt about clowns, and I asked important questions of them, like whether they'd follow me on Twitter. But also what they were looking for in an editor if I did take on that role, and other truly-important as opposed to sarcastically-important queries.

Then it was back to the airport, where I ran into a David Bowie poster. I consider this a good omen.

A blessing from my personal god.

Overall, I think the interview went well. Of course, as an anxiety-ridden individual, in retrospect I can think of about 58378935869248593821 things I could have done better--but there's nothing I can do about that now! Yippee! So I will do my very best to focus on the good. I believe I presented myself professionally, and that I advocated for myself as strongly as I could have, especially given the suddenness of the interview, and all the tiring traveling that came before it. 

I really want the job at American Soup. I genuinely liked everyone I met, and they genuinely seemed to enjoy working there. I talked to multiple people who'd been working there for nearly 30 years, simply because there's so much room for career growth within the company. Tired of designing soup cans? You can switch to new soup development. I appreciate that kind of flexibility. I'd love to be a professional editor, and from what I've seen and heard of Cleveland, it sounds awesome. Can't thank American Soup enough for flying me in. 

I like you. Please hire me? 

And that, my friends, ends the two week saga of my departure from Vegas. Now I'm just going to have my own personal writing retreat with my parents' dogs while I wait to hear about the job. Should know by early September. I realize that early September isn't far away, but I imagine I'll be jittery with anticipation until then. 

***

To read Part 1, click here.
To read Part 2, click here

Sunday, August 21, 2016

So Long, Las Vegas (part 2)

Part 2

Before I begin the saga of our nearly 2,000 mile drive across the nation, a few musings on the process of moving:
  • Do items of clothing secretly breed within our closets? How is it that I can donate, sell, or toss five full garbage bags of clothes and still barely have enough room to squeeze the rest in my car?
  • Speaking of clothes, why have we not yet invented a clever way to pack clothing hangers? Why don't we make them collapsible or something? Even an internet search provided no useful life hacks.
  • Why is it so hard to sell a bed? It's not like I have cooties. 
With that out of the way: LeeAnn and I left Las Vegas early in the morning on Saturday, August 13th, our bodies contorted into the front seats of my ancient-by-car-standards Volkswagen Beetle convertible, the backseat and trunk of which were crammed with as much of my stuff as I could fit. Not that "I" could fit, to be perfectly honest. The night before our departure, Lulu and Joe, who are all too familiar with my ineptitude at simple domestic tasks, basically told me to get out of the way and tetrised my belongings into the tiny vehicle. (Yes, I did just use "tetris" as a verb. You get to do things like that when you have a Master's degree in writing.) I am undoubtedly lucky to have wonderful friends like them, and friends like LeeAnn, who took two days off work in order to be the Lewis to my Clark--in reverse, that is. 

With sunglasses on our faces and caffeinated liquid sustenance precariously placed in my janky cupholders, we hopped onto I-15 towards Utah. My car was chugging its way up and down the slopes of the Virgin River Gorge, which cuts through the small section of Arizona that separates southern Nevada from its eastern neighbor, when its engine began to stall on the climbs. Regular readers of my blog may remember that the last time I drove to Utah, a similar problem occurred--a problem that resulted in me replacing the same part not once, but twice. We let the Beetle rest on the side of the road for a few minutes before heading off again, shouting encouragements at the poor old machine in the hopes that we'd at least be able to make it to the VW dealership in St. George, right over the Utah border.

Happily, we did make it to that VW dealership--just after their service department had closed for the day. We were at a loss as to what our next step should be; if the car couldn't make it up some big hills in Arizona, it certainly wasn't going to make it over the Rockies. Should we rent an SUV and tow the Bug? Neither LeeAnn nor I had ever tried to tow anything before. Should we sell the car for what little it's worth and rent another car for the rest of the trip--assuming we could even find a place to sell the car in St. George? We eventually got my parents on the phone, as the title of the Beetle was still in their name, and we therefore figured that it was ultimately their decision.

"Dad, what should we do?"

*Muffled conferring with my mother nearby.*

"Just trade it in and lease a new car."

"What?"

"Just lease a new car."

"You want us to buy a car?"

"No--lease one. Try to get us a good deal."

"Um...okay."

And that's how LeeAnn and I ended up with a brand new Passat. If my personal preferences were the sole consideration, I probably would have gone with a Jetta, but the Passat was a far better price, and it had way more room for us to re-pack all my stuff. We were able to see out of the back window and everything!

Goodbye, Beetle.

Hello, Passat.

After a four-hour delay, we continued our drive across Utah, jogging between its jagged, barren mesas until we pulled into Grand Junction, Colorado at around 11 p.m. Our room at the Clarion Inn was a welcome sight after the day's unexpected travails, and we promptly fell asleep watching the Olympics. 

Day 2 went much more smoothly. We brought our continental breakfast up to bed and turned the Olympics back on (who says Millennials don't watch the Olympics?), and when our appetites for both food and international sport were satisfied, we got back in the car and began our relatively short drive to Denver. 

We zoomed up and over the Rocky Mountains, climbing the scenic rises carefully and trying not to immediately wear out our breaks on the way down the equally scenic slopes. We hit some traffic around Idaho Springs, but overall we reached Denver quickly, where I eagerly leapt into the open arms of the lovely Leta--in her beautiful new apartment, no less! 

Albert, our good luck charm, and The Rocky Mountains.

Denver, as always, was paradisiacal. We hunted Pokemon in Cheesman Park. We had beer and a delicious dinner at Vine Street Pub & Brewery. We stopped for ice cream at Liks because ice cream. A delightful evening was had by all. 


On the lookout for the elusive Pokemon.

Cheers to local brews.

Let's be real--we all scream for it.

We kicked off the next morning with greasy diner brunch at Pete's and a trip to The Tattered Cover so LeeAnn could see one of the best bookstores in the United States. Also so I could obtain a spicy bhakti chai. It's not a trip to Denver without a spicy bhakti chai. It was early afternoon when we started the long slog to Omaha. 

Here's the thing about Nebraska: there's not much in it. However, it was still sunflower season, so the cheerful yellow blossoms of my favorite flower followed us all along the largely desolate highway. The trip wasn't completely boring--we relived our high school days with a soundtrack composed of Bright Eyes, The Faint, Jimmy Eat World, The Kaiser Chiefs, Franz Ferdinand, and more. On top of that, LeeAnn treated us to some sweet (both literally and figuratively) candy necklaces in Brule. Nevertheless, we were relieved when we finally rolled into our Holiday Inn Express that night.

Blurry sunflowers.

We want candy. 

The last day of our trip began with--what else?--continental breakfast in bed and the Olympics. My goodness, those divers have phenomenal abs. When we finished eating and ogling the male athletes, we set out for Chicago. Iowa isn't much more interesting than Nebraska, but we did make a pit stop in Des Moines for lunch, as LeeAnn used to live and work there. I had never visited Des Moines before, so I was excited to see the city. Or rather, "city." Charming large town is more accurate. Not only did we witness the biggest gold-plated dome of any state capitol in the country, but we also ate at LeeAnn's favorite spot, El Bait Shop/High Life Lounge. I highly recommend the fried pickles.

On our drive out of Des Moines, I received a phone call with a Cleveland area code. "How spontaneous are you feeling?" asked the recruiting manager from the aforementioned prospective employer. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm always willing to be spontaneous, especially when it comes to travel. And that's how I ended up flying to Cleveland for a job interview two days later--but more about that in Part 3.

Another advantage that Iowa has over Nebraska is the world's largest truck stop. It contains a whole food court, a depot for truck supplies, and every tchotchke under the sun, as well as a barber shop, a dentist's office, and a giant car wash just for semis. It's the type of place that makes you truly proud to be an American.

The oh-so-Midwestern lights of the High Life Lounge.

The finest of roadside attractions. 

After we crossed the mighty Mississippi and paid several outrageously expensive tolls in western Illinois, our road trip came to a successful and tasty end when we met my father for pizza at Kaiser's--the best pizza in the whole world. From there we simply went back to my parents' place and crashed. 

LeeAnn and I had ambitious plans for our day in Chicago. We were going to get tattoos, and I was going to take her to all my old haunts. Instead we reclined on the couch, cuddled the family dogs, and watched the Olympics. We managed to get off our lazy butts that evening and drive to Evanston to meet Becca, one of LeeAnn's childhood friends, for dinner. We stuffed our bellies with absurdly good tapas and sangria at Tapas Barcelona, and then, sadly, I had to bring my loyal traveling companion back to the airport for her flight to Vegas. 

I can't thank LeeAnn enough for adventuring with me--the trip would have been much harder without her boundless optimism and her flawless taste in music. Shoutouts are also due to Leta, Nick, and Grant, who so kindly welcomed us into their home--despite the fact that they were still in the midst of unpacking--as well as to my ridiculously generous parents for sponsoring a new car when a new car was so desperately needed. I love you all.

And now, for posterity, here is a list of the bizarre town names we passed on our cross-country journey: 

Hurricane, Sulphurdale, Nephi, Panguitch, Kanab, Sigurd, Mussentuchit, Floy, Yellowcat, Danish Flat, Fruita, Parachute, Powderhorn, Rifle, Silt, No Name, Gypsum, Eagle, Leadville, Roggen, Wiggins, Weldona, Brush!, Hillrose, Holyoke, Iliff, Crook, Haxtun, Ogallala, Cozad, Eustis, Gibbon, Doniphan, Friend, Wahoo, Gretna, Niola, Avoca, Wiota, Panora, Earlham, Winterset, Altoona, Montezuma, What Cheer, Ladora, Marengo, Tiffin, Keokuk, Atalissa, Muscatine, Silvis, Prophetstown, Mendota. 

Mussentuchit is the clear winner.

***

To read Part 1, click here
To read Part 3, click here.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

So Long, Las Vegas (part 1)

In the past two weeks, I have packed up all my belongings, crossed several sights off my Vegas bucket list, driven across the country for four days, and taken an impromptu trip to Cleveland. That's far too much for one blog entry, don't you think? Therefore, I shall divide my epic fortnight into three parts.

Part 1

The madness began when Shaun and I had a joint goodbye party that doubled as his birthday party. Actually, it could have been madder, but I developed a bad headache and had to leave early. Despite the premature exit, I still managed to join friends for dinner at Stake Out, which will forever be our favorite dive bar/restaurant in the valley. (Stake Out is a recurring theme of my final week in Vegas.) Then we headed over to Champagne's, which isn't quite as good since its unfortunate Bar Rescue makeover, but is still okay--mostly because the wallpaper survived. And because it continues to host weird, half-live-band karaoke nights, of course. I managed one song before my head really started pounding and I left for home, but from what I understand, everybody else had a late night. Very late. Probably too late.

I know this because of the hangovers I witnessed when I went to play the final game of our summer Marvel-themed RPG campaign the next day. It was a rousing afternoon/evening full of slaughtering imaginary supervillains. I must tip my hat to Shaun, who is an extraordinary GM. Consider yourself lucky if he ever runs a game for you.

The following week, my days were consumed with packing, and my nights were consumed with pretend tourism. On Tuesday, after yet another Stake Out dinner, Sean, Natasha, and I went to play Bingo with LeeAnn and Jon out in Henderson. For those of you who have never played Bingo in a casino, it's actually kind of stressful--they call the numbers so quickly that it's easy to miss some, especially because you're playing across six cards (at least) at once, and you're typically searching for other formations instead of a traditional one-line bingo. Nobody in our party won, unfortunately, but we did witness one woman win close to $1,000 because she got a bingo on G49, the special number for the evening. She was positively giddy, and rightfully so. At any rate, I'm glad I found one more opportunity to use my hot pink dauber.

LeeAnn's lucky sweater had an off night.

On Wednesday night, my darling roommate Lulu used her magic powers to get us on the High Roller Ferris Wheel for free. And by "magic powers," I mean her Caesars properties staff ID. The High Roller is currently the tallest ferris wheel in the world, and I have to say, the views were spectacular. 

So many hotel rooms.

Did I relax on Thursday night, knowing that I had a long road trip in just a few days? Of course not! During my three years in Vegas, I had somehow never visited Circus Circus. I corrected this travesty by playing Skee-Ball with Joe and Tim. I received way more tickets than they did, probably because I'm awesome at Skee-Ball and definitely not because I played more games than they did and also because their machine was broken. Nope. I'm just that good. We also watched some death-defying circus acts, and Joe was kind enough to purchase a gaudy Las Vegas t-shirt for me so I can proudly represent my former city wherever I end up. 

Skee-Ball champions.

After Skee-Ball, we headed to the lounge at the tippy top of The Stratosphere, where we were joined by Shaun, Austin, and Jesse. We drank overpriced drinks and watched bungee jumpers bound past the windows, and then we took pictures on the observation deck. 

All the young dudes. And also me. 

Friday was my very last day in Vegas, so I wanted to ditch the tourism act and just have a relaxing night with my friends doing what we would normally do. And what do we normally do? Stake Out. Stake Out is what we normally do. We ate and drank and played pool (poorly, in my case), and all too soon it was time to say goodbye. I held it together until I exited the building, and then I became a puddle of tears. 

Group hug.

Hey, Vegas friends: I miss you an awful lot. <3

On Saturday morning, LeeAnn and I embarked upon our cross-country adventure. But that will be covered in part 2...

***

To read Part 2, click here.
To read Part 3, click here.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

A Change in the Weather

We've had some strange weather in Vegas this past week. Sky has been overcast. One day the high was below 100 degrees. One day it drizzled.

I don't know what it means, but it has been particularly good weather for writing and reading.

Not that I've been doing either of those things as much as I'd like. Mostly I've been packing--though I still haven't done the bulk of that, either. But I cleaned out my closet, my bedroom cabinets, my bathroom cabinets. Now it's just the big stuff. I really hope someone will buy my bed.

I've been helping lots of my friends move to different buildings, and it's funny, because even with all the boxes, it hasn't hit me that I am indeed moving. Today Kristian asked me when I was leaving, and I suddenly realized that I'm leaving a week from today.

I have a lot of work to do.

On Wednesday morning I had a surprise interview with a recruiting manager at potential-employer-in-Cleveland. I was just reclining in bed, reading a book, when he called and asked if I had a few minutes to talk. Glad it was just a phone interview and not Skype--I suspect my pajamas wouldn't have gone over well. I probably spoke too quickly, but overall I think it was a good conversation. Cross your fingers for me--I'd very much like to travel to Cleveland for a second interview.

In totally unrelated news, I've been listening to some wonderful new music lately, and I feel I ought to share it with you. The one and only time I saw Sufjan Stevens in concert was way back in 2010 at the Chicago Theater--it's amazing I've only seen him once, considering that I'm something of a Sufjan superfan. That night his opening act was DM Stith, a graphic-designer-turned-multinstrumentalist, and Stith's vaguely creepy folk album Heavy Ghost immediately captured my soul. (It's still my favorite album to listen to during thunderstorms.) He's worked on various side projects over the years, but he FINALLY put out another solo album at the end of July. It's called Pigeonheart, and it's wild. It's a little more electronic than the last album. You absolutely must hear it.

During the summer of 2013, pretty much the only album I could listen to was Chance the Rapper's Acid Rap. I remember listening to his song "Lost," which features a female rapper called Noname Gypsy, and thinking "why the hell doesn't she have an album?" I'd never heard a voice quite like hers. Well, now she does. She just goes by Noname now, and her album Telefone is everything. Listen on Soundcloud.

Hm, it appears that it's after 4 p.m. Shaun's birthday party/my going-away party is at 5 p.m., and I still haven't showered.

Sometimes I am not very good at being an adult.