The Palisades conference center is probably a nice place most of the year. The same is true of the nearby Hilton. Unfortunately, it was February, and cold. Even in the building, it was somewhat cold–when we walked past a fireplace in the conference center on our way back from lunch, the Austin folks all immediately walked over to it and stood there trying to warm up. The rest of the team, from places like New York and Indiana, looked at us with mild amusement.
That said, the first thing I noticed on returning to Austin wasn’t the heat–it was the moisture. Northeastern winters are a constant battle against dry, cracking skin, sore eyes, dry throat, and so on. It now seems amazing to me that I lived in New England for so many years, putting up with sub-zero temperatures and dry air for months at a time. What was I thinking?
Food was pretty good. Because Palisades is a conference center rather than an office, it serves customer food rather than IBM canteen food. The coffee, however, was another matter. The pod-based coffee machine near the meeting room produced something that actually tasted worse than the coffee from the miniature coffee maker in my hotel room. You know things are bad when you go to Dunkin’ Donuts and think “Wow, this is great coffee!” And given that we were starting each day’s work at 8am, coffee was a critical requirement for me.
Evenings were better. One night we went to the TriBeCa Grill, co-owned by Robert DeNiro. It was good food. I’m not sure it was good enough to make up for trudging a mile through freezing winds, but I’m not really a food snob.
Visiting the World Trade Center site was odd. I hadn’t been there in 15 years, so the absence of the towers didn’t seem odd. Ground zero looked like any other urban construction zone.
The business part of the trip went well, and was far too (a) confidential (b) boring to non-IBMers to recount in more detail.
Astonishingly, nothing went wrong with the plane flights, which both left on time and arrived slightly early. Then again, this time I had carefully avoided American Airlines. Security asked to check my bag on the way back, I immediately and correctly guessed that they wanted to see my razor. I took it apart and demonstrated the lack of blade, the blades all being packed in my checked luggage.
Got back at around 23:00, completely exhausted. Managed to stay awake enough to drive home, crashed into bed. Still tired today.