Thursday, July 19, 2007

Lubbock or Leave It

If you haven't heard the reference song for today's blog posting, check out the Dixie Chicks' latest CD, Taking the Long Way. In the song, Natalie talks about the Chicks' chilly reception in her hometown of Lubbock, and compares it to the way Buddy Holly, also a Lubbock native, was received during his lifetime. Lyrics, which pertain a lot to Lubbock, including Loop 289 and ALL the HUGE churches, are here. I really didn't like this song until I saw the Chicks do it live when they were in MSP last summer, and it's a pretty great song for a live show. The live show heightened my appreciation for it, and especially since I was in the town from which it derives its name, I had it running through my head the entire time I was in Lubbock.

Before I left Dallas on Wednesday, however, I knew I had to get to the Saltgrass for supper again. I had some really nice guy take a picture of me at the entrance. I would have taken some pictures inside, because it's decorated to the hilt, but I would have felt dumb since the place was packed to the gills. Even for single seating I had to wait almost fifteen minutes for a table, and I went around 7:30-8, figuring I'd try to miss the rush.

Anyway, had a great steak and a super-fun drink called a Texas Swirl, made with grenadine, lemon slush and Midori layered in stripes, so it looks like a Mexican flag. Why then, they call it a Texas Swirl, I haven't the slightest idea. But it's good. As Borat would say, "Yeah, high five - I likey." :) To give you an idea of the ambiance of the place, I took this picture of a plaque on the outside of the building, as you walk into the doors.

So it was up at the butt-crack of dawn on Thursday to fly to Lubbock. The Dixie Chicks song alludes to this, but Lubbock is in the middle of nowhere, and their airport is called the Lubbock Preston Smith International Airport. The irony of this is apparent when you fly in - I took a couple of pictures from the air to show - they weren't kidding about the wide open spaces. The circles are pivots for the irrigation systems, which help supply water for the main crop in the Lubbock environs - cotton. The bols haven't formed yet, but I guess it's something to see when they do - millions of little white dots all over the fields.

Windrowed clouds. They reminded me of a freshly chisel-plowed field, and they were in perfectly straight rows. It was crazy.

When I finally hit the ground, I grabbed my luggage and found a cab (finding a cab at an airport like Lubbock is about like finding a cab at the Rice Lake Regional Air Center - it just doesn't happen), and was hurtling toward Lubbock town proper. However, as the cabby was rounding the curve out of the airport drive, I caught a glimpse of something running across the dry, red dirt along the road. "Oh my gosh," I yelled, catching myself a little by surprise, "was that a prairie dog?" The cabby started laughing and assured me that yes, I had spotted one of the Lubbock area's biggest celebrities, the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog. These little buggers are the 5th most popular tourist attraction in the Lubbock area, and they have their own colony, maintained by the taxpaying citizens of Lubbock via the Lubbock Parks and Recreation Department. Not necessarily the most politically correct thing to do, as Lubbock has been the epicenter of one of the biggest disputes regarding the rodent pests since people first started settling in the area. Quite a big stir for such a little varmint.

Anyway, the first sign of family Rodentia should have been my first hint that Lubbock is a little...out of the ordinary. My next hint came at our Lubbock office. As I walked into the office building, which is shared with a bunch of other companies, I was met by a very nice gentleman who happened to look like he just walked out of The Magnificent Seven. That was, apart from his belt buckle. I was lucky I was wearing my ever-ubiquitous tortoiseshell sunglasses, otherwise I would have been blinded. I swear on a stack of bibles, the thing could have doubled as a solar panel. It was huge and shiny, and, unfortunately, I found myself staring at the guy's waistline with my mouth gaping open, until I realized how potentially awkward that could be. I think I turned about fifteen shades of red, said "Thank you" in a VERY small voice as he held the door, and ran into the building, dragging my luggage behind me. Yeah, embarrassing. But in my defense, it WAS the most ginormous belt buckle I'd ever seen in my life. He probably had to slaughter a small herd of longhorns just to pay for the thing!

Anyway, I composed myself and walked into the Lubbock office suite. Lubbock is the headquarters for our outside plant and engineering staffs, so what this means is that at lunch I found myself eating deli sandwiches in the break room with a bunch of crazy draftsmen, watching one guy shoot those fancy frilled toothpicks through a straw into the tile on the dropped ceiling. I haven't laughed so much in a while, and all the guys were great. There were a couple of jokes about me being from the "other" Dallas office, and when I told them Big D, WI, is difficult to find on a map, they shot back that they could probably locate it right down to cable maps and DSAs (that's digital serving areas, to all you non-telcom folks). They at one point started to sing the Spiderman theme song, with the very confusing and somewhat troublesome substitution of "Spiderpig," and I decided it was time to get while the getting was good.

Thursday found us doing our 2nd training session on the new CPNI rules, and that went really well. Like with any presentation, once you do it the first time, any subsequent times are smoother and easier since you know some of the questions that will inevitably arise and can address them up front, plus you can add clarifications where needed to avoid confusion. Chances are I'll be back in Texas in the near future repeating this training, since the FCC rules go into effect in December, and telcos are eager to get their practices and methodologies established before the Commission has a chance to start doling out more violations fines, which have been ranging into the 6 digits as of late.

Thursday afternoon found me again at Lubbock International, waiting for my flight. Ever flight I've ever had in, to or from Texas has been late, and this evenings was no exception. The Houston area was experiencing some bad weather, so that held all the commuter flights on Southwest up, meaning I got out of Lubbock almost an hour late. I wasn't in any hurry, since my flight back to MSP doesn't leave until tomorrow (Friday) morning, but it's irritating nonetheless. Especially in Lubbock, since the airport's pretty boring.

Sat in "first class" on my Southwest flight back to Dallas this evening. Those of you who have ever flown Southwest will understand this joke, but for those of you who haven't yet experienced the joy, here's how stuff works on SW. My boss, in her infinite wisdom, once told me that boarding for SW flights is like a cattle call. And she was right. There is no real seating/boarding pattern on SW - you are assigned an A, B, or C designation at the time of check-in (which is why one should ALWAYS do online, 24-hr in advance checkin with SW), with all passengers in the A group boarding first, followed by B, and so on. However, there may be more than half the passengers in the A group, so jockeying for position is big. Because, unlike every other airline on the face of the earth, SW does not assign seats. So the early bird DOES get the worm here. And, since yours truly is meaner than most people, I managed to sit in the very first row, right next to the window, because SW also does not believe in seating classifications. They are very egalitarian in that regard. But if you are a late-add, it means you get stuck between Big Bertha and Bigger Al in the last row, with a 30 minute connection at Dallas Love. I think I'm going to submit a new marketing slogan for SW on their website, "Southwest - the Great Equalizer." Catchy, no?

But as my flight leaves earlyish tomorrow morning, and I'll have to plan extra travel time to accommodate the crazies on LBJ during DFW rush hour, I'll leave you for the evening. Check up throughout the weekend - more landscaping and much more fun-ness is coming your way! With love from the Big D, Musings.

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