January 13, 2000: Early Morning Call

Today is marked as one of those turning point days in my life.  At about four in the morning John Nicklin called me from Hawaii (the time different is enough that he didn’t really think about what time it is here) to let me know that the medical center that we visited in December had liked our presentation and wanted to move forward with the Waste Watcher project.  We are scheduled to begin the project on March 20 in Pittsburgh.  That means that I am leaving Rochester and doing it soon.  Probably long before March because there is a lot of prep work to be done.

Andy was sleeping on the couch and I ran down to give him the news and to discuss the project with him.  He wasn’t nearly as impressed as I had hoped with the news but he was pretty groggy.

Later, after some sleep, we discussed the project during normal waking hours and Andy admitted that it sounded like a really cool project.  We had talked about it some before but we didn’t think that it was very likely to actually move forward as an actual project so we hadn’t taken it too seriously.

Now architecture and technology discussions actually begin and some serious inklings as to the long term outlook of the system begin to take shape.

December 31, 1999: Blackout Party

Another New Year’s Eve party that will live on in infamy. If you read what happened one year ago today, you know that last year I was hosting a New Year’s Eve party after getting the day off from work and then because the person who was covering that shift (cough, cough, Andy) wasn’t able to complete that shift due to all of his drinking, I had to leave my own New Year’s Eve party and go cover the shift losing my party night and not getting in a whole shift. So this year I ensured that things would be different.

One housing update since last year. At this point Andy and Amber had both moved in. Andy and I were sharing a bedroom because we both worked at the same hotel and worked opposite shifts so we never really overlapped and sharing the space saved a ton of money while really having no other impact on our lives. I didn’t have a driver’s license for a lot of the year, so being roommates helped with that, too. Amber had moved into Josh’s room and had been there, along with her cat, most of the year. The house had a lot of cats at this point.

Andy and I had started our consulting firm in February of this year and were working hard in our overnight management jobs so that we could fund our consulting startup out of pocket. We were doing whatever consulting work we could pick up. Nicklin Associates had snapped us up in June and at this point I was working as the Director of IT for Nicklin Associates by day, and managing a hotel at night temporarily till all of the company stuff was worked out. I’d be quitting the hotel in just a few weeks from now, but we didn’t know that yet. But just a few days ago I had gone to Pittsburgh with John Nicklin and pitched a huge project to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center network to totally revamp their management systems and build the first software as a service for the industry. It was a huge moment for me, pitching a massive multi-million dollar project to a huge hospital network out of nowhere just assuming that I could reinvent the industry with no company behind me, no support network. Just me and, presumably, Andy. Massive gamble and leap of faith. That was just days before this party! So I was riding high, it had been one whirlwind of a year… started my first successful company at twenty two, got my first executive job at twenty three, and gave a great design pitch for a ground breaking product all in the last ten months. And I had been working for Wegmans as their corporate guitarist as well! I was never sleeping this year, but it was all worth it.

They tried to schedule me to work the overnight this year, acting like I had gotten it off last year, if you can believe that! I was not happy. I reminded them that I busted butt to save their bacon last year and they decided to only make me worth the second shift, the one from three to eleven in the evening which would give me just enough time to make it home to my own party, that I would miss the first part of, to at least see the ball drop. A bit ridiculous given that I was the party host both years and got completely screwed the first year, attempted to get screwed the second.

So most of this morning was at the apartment getting ready for tonight’s party. Then early in the afternoon I went down to Brighton to go work for the day. Three until eleven is my shift today. It was a weird shift, weird enough that I remember that there were all this abnormal traffic going on years later (I am writing this update in 2020!) I know that a few younger people came through and ended up getting invited to go up to the apartment for the party. One girl, whose name escapes me, who was a college student at the creepy cult “college” in Lima was there and ended up actually going to the apartment for the party!

Andy came in to relieve me at eleven and I raced up to the apartment. I made good time and was there around eleven thirty. The party was well into full swing. Eric and Amanda were there, not yet together. Dana would likely have been there. Emily Farina was there. The girl from Lima was there. There were actually a fair number of people, but I can only remember with any certainty so many of them. Mark was probably there, as likely was Mary. It would have been weird for them not to have been there.

This is, I am pretty sure, the party at which Eric and Amanda met. They would hang out again at Andy and my moving out party two months later. But they met tonight. They would be married a few years later.

The television was on and we were watching for the countdown. Since everyone had been drinking, and I was way behind, they had a handle of Johnny Walker Red set up for me in the kitchen along with a “can” of Rohol. Now the Rohol itself warrants its own story…

I have no idea when it appeared or what the original source was. But at some point around 1996 or, more likely, 1997, Andy and my liquor collection acquired this thing that looked like a cheap can of motor oil called Rohol. The liqueur was a solid 70 proof which makes it similar to a lighter than average whiskey. Stronger than an aperitif, but not as strong as a standard whiskey which is normally 80 proof or higher. But really high for whatever it was.

It is completely possible that the source was the collection of the country line dancing bar that closed down in conjunction with the Days Inn in Henrietta. For the life of me I cannot remember its name back in the 1990s, but the structure is used for Nashville’s today (in 2020.) But it could have come from almost anywhere, but it had become this bit of a legend as this nasty, overly strong, herbal, thick, black liquid that no one but me could drink. It was a little like Jager, but way stronger. Too much alcohol and too much herbal flavour for most people.

It looked like, and we gave you the impression of being, motor oil. We all referred to it as “liquor in a can” and it was a running joke for years that this even existed, let alone was in our liquor cabinet and absolutely no one (except me) would venture to even try it.

Tonight was the night to really drink it, though. I had very little time before the ball was to drop, so I started doing shops of Johnny Walker, followed by chasers of Rohol. An odd choice, of course, as a chaser is not normally nearly the same alcohol content as the thing being chased. It was more just alternating shots.

I have no idea how much I had, but it was a lot. Most of a handle of Walker, and most of a “can” of Rohol, all before midnight. Probably in about 20-25 total minutes. It all went by really quickly.

I hung out with everyone between my shots, which didn’t leave very much time. I still remember standing in the kitchen, the light, the curtains, how it was all set up. I remember doing the shots. I remember walking out just in time to be in the living room and watch the ball drop signaling that it was midnight and the year, decade, century, and millennium and just rolled over. I remember that the pending Y2K end of the world didn’t happen.

I remember waiting just a few seconds and getting an odd feeling and knowing that I needed to get upstairs. I told everyone good night, I had worked all day, drank enough, and was done. I went to the stairs and started walking up.

At the bottom of the stairs I was one hundred percent stone cold sober. Totally with it, no buzz, no nothing except for a rumbling stomach. By the top of the stairs I was lucky to be able to keep walking. Each step up the stairs I felt the warm, fuzzy rise as the alcohol hit my blood stream. I have no details now, but I am guessing that I had little or possibly zero food in my system with all of that alcohol. It didn’t exactly hit me fast, just all of a sudden. Like a brick wall.

At the top of the stairs I knew that it was all over. The world was starting to spin and I started to lose sight. I had never been really drunk before. Barely ever been buzzed before. My tolerance levels were (and still are) so high that getting drunk is rare and somewhat hard. But being so tired, having no food, and putting away so much strong liquor so fast sure did the trick.

I went straight for the bathroom. It was a straight shot up the stairs, then a ninety degree turn to the right and the bathroom was right there, just across the hallway. My bedroom was on the left and Josh’s on the right. His had the slightly larger room with the view out the front into the parking lot (not as scenic, but I think that it was nicer) and mine was slightly smaller, with the private view out into the woods. I stepped across the hall and barely got my feet to the bathroom door and I felt myself black out. I went down collapsing into the bathroom.

I wasn’t blacked out for too long. Of course I have really no idea, time was irrelevant. But I know that I got myself to the shower at some point and turned on the cold water and knelt by the side of the tub with the cold water on my head to help me cool down and not feel so sick. I’m completely certain that I was sick, but I don’t actually remember that. I know that Eric checked on my and got my shirt off so that I didn’t get all soaked. And the majority of my memories for the night involve laying on the bathroom floor unable to move. I know at some point people were stepping over me to use the bathroom.

One weird story from tonight is the Lima girl, that we never saw again, lost her shoes in the woods because she was drunk and outside in the woods peeing in the darkness. That was pretty weird.

I think that at some point I recovered enough to come hang out with the party, but that seems unlikely given the state that I was in. But I was only 23 at this point, so my ability to recover quickly was pretty good still. Most of the people from the party spent the night, so there was a lot of hanging out the next morning, especially after Andy got there around eight.

This was an important party for many reasons, not the least of which being my first drunk experience. This was 1999 so the first big party that we threw after Andy and I had founded Renaissance-West, the company that would eventually become NTG, and the first since I had gotten an executive job. This was the last party with Josh and I being roommates (except for our moving out party.) We had no idea at the time, well we had a little idea, but this was the beginning of the end of the era. Sort of our unofficial wrap up to our wild twenties. Sure, we were only just starting our twenties, but Andy and I were moving on to business and professional lives and leaving this life behind very quickly. There is a wild and crazy attitude that you get when you are that age and I certainly had felt it over the last five years. And this is really where it ended. The wild, crazy, irresponsible age of post high school, pre-career life for me was over. My window had been short. And really, I had barely gotten it at all having mixed in a lot of management and professional work in all sorts of different forms in the middle of it. But now it was just… over.

One wild night, this is a day that I will never forget. Not because it was New Year’s, or the calendar changed, but because it was just an epic moment in all of our lives. So many pivotal things swirling around this date. So many things had been happening just before it, and so many things will happen over the next three months.

Written January 3, 2020.

December 31, 1998: No Party for Me

Tonight should be a big party for me, I’ve always been the party host for New Year’s Eve going back to around 1990. It’s just kind of been my thing. For a long time it was Art and my thing to host New Year’s Eve together. We often did it at his house around 1990 and 1991. This year Josh and I have this great apartment in Greece, New York at Greenleaf Meadows and we are throwing a nice party because we actually have a townhouse to host it in. None of our friends have a “real” place like this so it is a pretty big deal. Andy lives at the house on Cypress St. in Rochester but hangs out all of the time.

I’m writing this update on New Year’s 2020 so a very, very long time later, twenty one years later, in fact. So my memory of the day is pretty lean. But it does stand out.

At this time I was the overnight auditor and manager for the Wellesley Inn (Prime Hospitality) in Brighton, New York on the south side of Rochester. I had been there since leaving the Days Inn, which had been just an awful experience, which I went to after my terrible experience at Tops Markets in Avon, which was after Burger King, which was after Pizza Hut. I had a fast run of weird jobs during this time, but the Wellesley I stayed with for a while as it was a really nice place to work.

Tonight was my night off, I had gotten it off in advance so that we could plan the party at the house. Andy was scheduled to work tonight as I had seniority having moved from the Days Inn to the Wellesley a little while before he did. So Josh and I planned a party at our “new” bachelor pad. This would be our first New Year’s here, I am pretty sure.

My night got ruined, though, because while I got to host the start of the party, Andy ended up getting drunk at work and sent home and they called me in to take over managing the hotel for the night. So I had to leave my own party to go to work, and Andy got to go to my place to go to the party! And I didn’t even get paid for a whole shift. I spent money on the party at my house, did all the work, and didn’t get to enjoy it, and then when I had to work got a short shift because it wasn’t really my shift. It just sucked all the way around. So I told them that in no uncertain terms I was not working the overnight next year.

So a pretty crappy New Year’s Eve night.

One thing that is amazing to think about is that this party was just under two months before Andy and I would form our first company, Renaissance-West Consulting which would eventually be renamed (among other things) NTG and would last for a very long time (still going decades later as I wrote this.) In addition to working at the hotel at night, I was studying like crazy to get my IT certifications like the MCSE, and doing any consulting that I could pick up during the day, and was playing classical guitar on salary for Wegmans as their corporate guitarist which I had been doing for a while at this point and it was going great. I was at a really weird point in my life where my post-high school “floundering” was just weeks away from ending and I was just about to have the kick off to some of the most interesting adventures in my life begin.

September 7, 1998: Derecho

Today is a day of meteorological infamy and I am happy to have been able to have been a part of it.   Derechos are an extremely uncommon weather formation and today Upstate New York was hit by one of the most famous ever.  Known locally as the “Labor Day Storm” or elsewhere as the Syracuse Labor Day Derecho this event was so significant that Wikipedia has an entry about the storm and it is listed in the very small list of famous derechos to his the United States.  NOAA has a site dedicated to the storm as well.

I had the morning off from work and went in to the Wellesley Inn around eleven in the evening.  It was a perfectly normal day as far as the weather was concerned but shortly after I got to work that started to change very quickly.

I was on the phone with a friend who worked the same shift, the overnight audit, at the Super 8 on Lehigh Station Road in Henrietta just a couple miles south from where I was working in Brighton.  We were chatting about the normal industry events and exchanging shift information to speed things along.  I remember looking up from the desk and looking outside into the parking lot and I watched the weather change almost instantly from a calm to incredible wind and rain.  You could hear it shifting.  You couldn’t miss it.

Just as quickly as the weather changed everyone outside began running for cover and cars began to slide in the parking lot.  I asked the person on the other end of the phone, Bill I think his name was, if he was seeing the same thing and he said that something similar was happening down there.  I hung up the phone and ran to the front doors to watch the ensuing mayhem.  It was utter chaos as everything that wasn’t bolted down, and many things that were, began taking flight across the parking lot.  This was some serious wind.

I attempted to step outside but feared that the wind would rip the doors from my grasp and shatter them under the pressure so I kept them closed and locked unless someone tried to get in.

After not too long of a time a horrible noise came from the back hallway and I scrambled back there to inspect the situation.  I was met with a wall of rain in the middle of the long hallway that ran the length of the hotel!  The wind had torn open the windows and the pressure was so great that the rain wasn’t even hitting the floor for most of the length of the building.  Standing in the hallway was just like being outside.  The wind was so intense that it came down the hallway in a spiral.

It turned out to be a series of microbursts called a derecho and it did some serious damage from a bit west of Rochester through Syracuse and out to Utica.  There were a lot of people without power in the morning and the hotel filled up with people looking for a place to stay.

August 23, 1998: That 70s Show at Eric’s House

Fox has been advertising a new sitcom about the 1970s called That 70s Show that is set to air tonight. Eric Millen, Mark Price and I have all been talking about the show and looking forward to seeing it for quite a while now. This is the only television show for many years that has been interesting enough for us to actually care about it.

Since it is a big deal, having a new and exciting show to see, we made plans with my friend Erin Ryan to all go to her house tonight to watch the show. It’s like a big movie night or something.

The four of us watched the show and were all totally hooked. For those of us born at just the time that this show is supposed to be taking place makes the show seem quite magical. It really did a great job of capturing the look and feel on the late 1970s. Those days in the late 70s are a swirling mist to me. I was born in early 1976 and I have a lot of memories from around 1978-1980 and I can still picture how everything looked. All of the browns and oranges and everything was stripped and polka dots. Wood panel wainscots were ubiquitous, cassettes and long play vinyl records ruled, televisions were tiny and generally black and white, cars were huge and gas was cheap. No one had computers then. I wouldn’t see my first computer until the summer of 1980.

Eric, Mark and I would wind up watching most of the first two seasons of That Seventies Show together. It was a regular event after that point. It remained throughout the first five years of its run to be one of the only, if not the only, television show that I watched with any regularity.