23 July 2021

The best dressed man in Pezmania!!

“You must be the guy Larry calls his ‘best manager in life’”, said the stranger to me.

I am usually not the one at loss for words. Ever. Even when I make no sense. Especially when I make no sense.

But I was stumped this time.

The best I could come up with is “I have been called worse!”

It is not often that one goes to Ohio unless they have family. And I do not. And yet, there I was. If you do go to Ohio, I guarantee you, you are not going to go to Independence, Ohio. Even the GPS tried to take me to a town called Independence in a different state. And if you know me… even if you found me in Independence, Ohio, it would be near a Marriott hotel. Not a Holiday Inn.

Certainly not a Holiday Inn where all the rooms were booked by aficionados of “Pez” swarming there for “Pezmania 30”! I know that for a fact because till about a couple of weeks back, I did not know what a Pez is. My guess is most of my readers do not know either. I am not going to describe it to you — you can read it up in Wikipedia. I am going to talk about the human angle to this.

“Larry, this is stupid! Why would so many people come together for a freaking mint dispenser? And they are such nice people, too.”

“You collect fountain pens?”

Ayayayayay!! He got me and he got me good!

It is never about the things. It is always about the passion. How else do you explain that I write with fountain pens or listen to music on much damaged vinyl records from India?

Passion is probably the best way to describe Larry.

We worked as team mates many moons back… I am talking nearly ten thousand moons back. But there has been something about this guy that has always kept me close to him.

He is the inspiration behind how my blog site looks.

He is the reason why I taught myself CSS and HTML.

He is the one who introduced me to ‘I wish you enough”

He is the one who taught me “The difficult, we will do now. The impossible, will take a little more time!”

We have gone thru a lot in our personal lives in those 20+ years we have known each other. He, more than me.

But we have stayed connected. Stayed together. I wish I was even more connected to him than I am today.

A few weeks back, when I was in Dallas for some personal business, I did get a chance to see Larry. And got to know about his fascinating “Pezmania” and 3-D printing. That is when I promised him that I will re-route myself from office to home (which in my case is Chicago to Atlanta) and go to the Holiday Inn in Independence, Ohio where he would be with many other Pezmaniacs.

Can you spot me in the picture/ I am the most well dressed guy – in fact, the only one with a sports jacket. Standing right next to the one of the few true human beings I know – Larry.

Larry apparently had talked to enough people about me that before I left, I walked away with a lot of free gifts – including a T-shirt for my hospice visits!!

Larry Mason, as a runner (who is slowing down in this age of mine) – let me tell you something I have learnt about life from running. We all start from different points. And we all end at different points. It is never about those points. It is always about who you run a little… walk a little… together in that journey. Those two dates of staring point and ending point in our tombstones are meaningless – life truly is in that “dash”.

You were, are and will always be one of a kind.

For the record, I still like how your family calls me (“the most interesting man”) better than how your Pezmaniac friends call me 🙂

But my life is better because who you have been to me. Not the adjectives you happened to have used to describe me. As undeserving as they might have been.

Here’s wishing to a few more intersections in life…..

created by dji camera

13 July 2021

Wonderful evening with the Whitneys!!

That was some fun times spent with my crazy friend Roger and his family. I had not seen Shauna, Spencer and Emma for quite some time. It was great to meet Claire too!

We talked about the time when I gained respect from the passenger sitting next to me when he realized I knew Roger personally. And of course our trip to Mongolia. And that time we kept razzing a very young Spencer with “Whatever dude! You kissed a girl!!”

But my best reflection of the evening is that the discussions between my psoriasis and Emma’s tattoos, I think we covered all topics skin related 🙂

Hope we can get the two families together for a vacation some day!!

5 July 2021

Come to Eleuthera for the incredible natural beauty

But stay here for how nice the people are. Every single person in this island is very friendly. You may remember Richard, Shirley and Shelly from previous posts. On Sunday, the cigar-toting Edgar at the Liquor store and Alicia from the grocery store helped me fix a problem. (I was potentially running low on cash and both the ATMs in the island were not working!!).

In the resort itself, the people are even nicer, if that is even possible. Florence – the lady from Haiti who has been cleaning our room has been super nice. She told us her story from Haiti.

Nothing can start your day as well as a good breakfast by the turquoise blue waters and great conversations with Torez and Trisha. Both of them have young kids – almost a year and a half old. In fact, I got to meet Torez’s daughter – who was super friendly – in keeping with the island ethos, I guess. She saw me and immediately gave me a fist bump!!

“So, we come here for vacation. You live here. Where do you go for vacation?”

“Florida!”

“Really? What is there that you do not have here?”

“Tall buildings!” said Torez

“Tall buildings?”

“Yes, I can look up. Here you cannot look up!”

“That is funny”

Trisha added – “You come here to see what you do not have. We go there to see what we do not have!”

Sounds about fair!!

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15 June 2021

Getting to see Kwok Poon

The last time I met Kwok, we had remembered the times we had worked together back in the days. You might remember from the post then how I was absolutely taken in by this youngster’s willingness to learn new things and put in the hard work to do so.

That meeting was in 2017. I was visiting his town. Four years later, he was visiting mine. And we arranged to make sure we get some time for a drink and dinner.

This time our discussions were a little more esoteric than Unix scripts – Talent and Time. We had some good exchanges of experiences on the difficulties of nurturing and managing Talent. And also an in-depth discussion around whether Time is real or something we have made up to make sense of this universe.

Great time spent with this youngster.

14 June 2021

“Papa Roy” !

As I lifted my eyes from the Zoom screen, I saw the young gentleman entering the shared office place I work from when in Atlanta. I recognized him immediately – but was on a call.

Once the call got over, I walked up to him and asked “Ben?”
“Yes, sir! I recognized you but was not sure what you were doing here”.

And that is how I ran into Ben Austin after a few years. Ben was part of Natasha’s close friends circle from middle school and they are still great friends. I remember him as the most level headed and responsible person in that group. Never shied from helping out his friends.

And he always called me “Papa Roy” !!

Ben also had great curiosity towards mixology. In fact, we reminisced about how, once he crossed 21, we had made an Old Fashioned together – with the cocktail smoker I had. He even remembered the wood chips we used that day!

Next time, I have an Old Fashioned – I will raise it to this young, aspiring medical professional!!

7 June 2021

What goes around, comes around!

“Kelly?”, I asked the rather startled lady running around with drinks and food for everybody who had gathered around the big outside patio and bar area on the fifth floor of the JW Marriott in Marco Island.

“Yes?”, the lady replied in a muffled sort of way from behind the mask but clearly confused about why I was asking that question.

“You may not remember me. Let’s try this..”, I said, as I removed my mask.

“Oh! Raj! Westin!”

“Indeed”

You see, right behind my office in Itasca (suburban Chicago) is the Westin I often stay in. And Kelly used to work there before the pandemic hit. During pandemic, she found a job in the JW Marriott in Marco Island and moved there. And that is exactly where I was vacationing with Sharmila!

***

To be fair, this was not sheer luck. I could not have recognized Kelly with her mask on. There is a backstory to this.

Two weeks back, I was in the Westin hotel and sitting at the bar talking up Janice and Tom – the two folks who have helped me there for the last few years. Janice and I were catching up on our families when I mentioned that my wife and I had lined up a few vacations to make up for Covid time. She mentioned how she wanted to visit Florida and visit an old friend from Westin who has moved there.

“Who is it?”

“Remember Kelly?”

“Yes.”

“She has moved to Marco Island.”

“Really? I am going to be there in 2 weeks time with my wife. I have never been there.”

“You will love it. She works in the Marriott there. Beautiful property.”

“Wait a minute. Which Marriott?”

“JW”

“No way! That is where I will be staying. I will be sure to meet her!!”

***

Now roll forward a couple of weeks. I am back at the Itasca Westin after a day’s work. Dropped my suitcase and all that in the room and went straight to the bar to catch up on some dinner.

Janice saw me from a distance and waved at me.

“I have something for you!”

“I have a vague idea what it might be!”

And that is when she went inside and got my sunglasses out for me.

***

You are probably wondering what is the thread joining all this, right? Well, the day after I met Kelly was the day we were checking out. And I suddenly realized that I was missing my sunglasses. Went around the hotel and reported to the authorities to let me know if they ever find it.

And reluctantly drove back to the airport, all the time squinting in my left eye in the bright Florida sunlight.

Before jumping on to the plane, I left a note for Kelly that I was missing my sunglasses. I was not sure I would ever get it back. I left a voicemail at my eye-doctor’s too. Those were prescription glasses and I can’t simply just walk in and get myself a new one. Since I have very high numbers (negative 8.5), it takes time to make those glasses.

The flight from Fort Myers to Atlanta had no wifi connection.

“Que sera, sera”, I said to myself and just settled down.

By the time I got down in Atlanta, there was a message from Kelly. Which made it crystal clear to me what had happened to my sunglasses.

The previous evening, Sharmila and I were sitting at the bar and talking about the kids and her mom in India. Before signing off, I was trying to take a picture of us. I used the sunglass cover as a support for my iPhone while setting up for a time-delayed picture.

Eduardo – who was serving us – and in the previous days had given us a few tips on what to do when we visit his motherland Colombia had coming running around and offered to take the picture for us. Which he did.

And he handed my phone back to me. I admired the pictures he had taken (which is a difficult thing to do since my picture was also there). And completely forgot about the sunglasses which I had carefully positioned.

Eduardo realized my mistake later but was not aware that I was checking out the next day. He had kept it for safekeeping to give it back to me. Of course, I never showed up.

Kelly picked it up from him.

And this is where my lucky break comes. Kelly had mentioned that she would be back in Chicago to close out on selling their house and finish up her chapter there.

While there, she came by her old work place and handed my long lost sunglasses to Janice.

And that is how I was reunited with my sunglasses!!

***

“Janice, can I take a picture of you with the sunglasses? I want to show it to my wife and kids. They always make fun of me for making friends with strangers. I want them to know that I would not have found my sunglasses but for that!”

That was an interesting set of connections – involving two cities, two hotels, two bartenders, one set of sunglasses and one person never ceasing to be awed by the personal stories of people he chances upon!!

30 May 2021

It is a good thing people get tattoos

“You have to explain to me the ink”, I asked the young lady who brought our food out.

It was a glorious sunny day as John and I sat down in the patio of Sunset Grille on Lake Allatoona after riding our motorbikes there. We had placed our order and were catching up on our families when the aforementioned lady got us our lunch.

Which is when I noticed the tattoo on her right arm. Tattoos are great ice breakers for me. Almost everybody has a story behind every tattoo they have. Sometimes remembering somebody near and dear, sometimes a life philosophy and sometimes “just because”. It has always been a great story telling topic for me. In full disclosure, I have stories myself but no tattoo.

In any case, the lady started telling the story about how she and her dad has the same tattoo and then went into further describing how she got it. And at every step, my memory cells were getting excited. Because the story was sounding very similar to somebody else Sharmila and I had once met.

I had to stop her – “Wait a minute! Do you know Courtney?”

“Mr. Roy, I AM Courtney!!”

Holy cow! I had absolutely not recognized her!

The back story is the following – Last summer, during Covid times, Sharmila and I used to come regularly to this spot, grab some food and sit by the dock. We had befriended Courtney then who had waited upon us. I think we met her a couple of times when she let us know that she was moving to St. Simon’s to study there. We were, of course, excited that she was going to pursue higher studies. And somewhat sorry that we won’t meet a familiar face again.

Thru Facebook though, Courtney and I had kept in touch. In fact, that is how I had found out that she would be back in Atlanta for the summer and was going to work again in Sunset Grill before going back to St. Simon’s again.

When I had walked in, I had indeed asked the lady in the front if Courtney was around. She told us that Courtney would be coming in for the evening shift.

So, I was not expecting to see Courtney at all! Turns out, she was there. And she had recognized me. Even though it was not her table, she had brought out the food for us!!

Man, I am getting old! Cannot recognize faces!! But I am glad she had recognized me.

It was great to reconnect with Courtney. We even took a picture before we left.

Hope to go back there soon with Sharmila again.

18 May 2021

Meeting the full Chakraborty family for the first time…

There have been a few hits and misses with this family…
In 2017, met Tapas and Jhumpa at a common friend’s place in Kolkata. But Bijin did not come.
In 2019, I went to Oman (where they live) for work but they were visiting India. (perhaps, got wind of the fact that I was coming!)
In 2020, Bijin joined our company as an intern but he was working from Purdue and I was working from Atlanta.
Finally, in 2021, managed to meet all of them together in Chicago!!

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14 May 2021

Catching up with Harish

Nearly six years back, Harish had walked up to me at a industry conference and introduced himself as somebody who I had apparently done a training class for in my first job (nearly 30 years back). I had not recognized him but was very impressed with his memory.

Caught up with him again today! I did not realize that he is an avid chess player and a teacher too! We had a great discussion on how much of chess is intelligence versus memory (pattern recognition).

Also, got a lot of tips on how to swim (I am terrible at it).

But the best part was remembering the days in COSL. One of the best company cultures we had every worked in!