Thursday, May 13, 2004
Arrived in Phoenix around 9:30 PM. Grabbed our rental car, a 2004 Red Mustang Convertible (V6). Not bad, but slow as all hell. We first checked the J.W. Marriot, which was on 44th, just North of the 202. They wanted 190 a night for the place, and it’d be smoking room. SCREW THAT!!! So, we looked around, with the help of Sean via cell phone, and grabbed a hotel room at the Hampton Inn on 44th, just south of the 202. It was a smoking room, but it was only 80 bux a night. The 2nd and 3rd nights, we changed to a non-smoking room. Free WiFi, at this place, which was nice, because Marvin and I are computer geeks. After we settled in, we met up with Sean at Dos Gringos in South Scottsdale. Nice place. Low-key for some reason. Sean said that it’s normally packed. Later in the weekend in was packed.
Friday, May 14, 2004
We had Friday set up as our major exploration day. Sean only had to make a conference call at around 8:30AM, so after that he was going to be free, with minimal mid-day errands to run. Marvin and I got up and had our free continental breakfast (carb-a-thon) and headed out to Sean’s place. He rents a room in his buddy, Doug’s, house. Nice place, centrally located. In-ground pool, misters to keep the back patio area cool, and even a 25″ in TV hanging up in the corner. It barely ever rains here, and the patio is covered anyway. The TV is a great idea. Anyway, we grabbed Sean, he drove, and I sat in the back seat. He’s too big to be a passenger in a Mustang. I didn’t mind, I usually drive, so this was good rest. Anyway, he drove us all around the greater Phoenix area, from Sun City, to Scottsdale, to Mesa, to Glendale, to Tempe, and a few other spots, we got a really good idea of where our competitors might be as well as where the major hospital and “medical” districts were located. In the middle of the day, while running some errands with Sean (he had to go to 2 different job sites) we ran into an AJ’s grocery store. This is something like a Nino Salvaggio’s and a typical grocery store, combined. Beautiful layout, wonderful meat, deli, and seafood counter, as well as a nice produce section. Top notch stuff here. After we drove around some of the suburb areas and stopped for Sean, we had to make it down to downtown Phoenix. Sean had to drop off some plans to the city architect or something like that. At this time, Marvin and I went up to Public Records (12th floor) trying to find out some more current population information in Phoenix and surrounding areas. Carlos was going to be our man on this. Hopefully we’ll hear from him this week, but I have my doubts. Anyway, on our way to and from the City Hall building, I made sure to get a bunch of pictures of how beautiful, new, and clean downtown Phoenix was. They actually call this area Diamond Square (or something like that). Anyway, we continued our touring and headed to get some lunch. We wanted to eat some Chinese buffet across from the Hampton Inn, but they were all closed. We were kind of late for lunch, like 3:15. We decided to head towards Tempe. We ate lunch at a Tejas Grill. Good stuff. Good food. Nice Margarita. After that, we went to Urban Outfitters. I bought a Puma shirt, Sean bought some swim trunks (for the pool), and Marvin bought some Puma ninja shoes. We went back to the Hotel and had a nice swim. I caught up with my lovely wife on the phone at this time, as well. After our “rest”, we headed out to meet up with Aaron at Ra, in Scottsdale. Awesome sushi place. Incredible atmosphere, real high rent stuff and some pretty fancy cars and bikes all over the place. Surprisingly, lots of people smoke cigarettes here. You’d think they wouldn’t due to it being so DAMN HOT ALL THE TIME!!! It was 100 degrees every day, by the way… but it’s not really that bad. That is, if you don’t drive around with the top down all day, like we did. Marvin’s now part black. Me, I’m part Scarab. Anyway, we had a good time at Ra and then went to Sugar Daddy’s to end the night with drinks. We met up with Doug and Milo here. Marvin and I were SERIOUSLY dragging ASS here due to the 3 hour time change. The first night was easy, we were excited. The 2nd night, the sleep deprivation caught up with us. All in all, Friday was a success both business wise and pleasure wise.
Saturday, May 15, 2004
We got up and had our carb-a-thon breakfast again and went and grabbed Sean. We had wanted to rent a boat or jet skis, but they were all booked. We still went to Lake Pleasant to enjoy the outdoors and the hot SPRING SUN!!! Sean said the lake was 20 mins. away, but it was more like 45 minutes away. Nice scenery, though. We saw gliders and hang gliders the whole way in. The surrounding area was VERY desert-like here. TONS of Saguaro cactuses as far as the eye could see. Some looked to be about 15 feet tall, as well. Anyway, the lake was nice. Hard to find an actual beach. We ended up going near a picnic area and walking down the desert landscape to our own beach area. Water was kind of cold due to the energy change from extreme hot air to mild water. On our way out of the water, we discovered that someone left their kids’ dirty diapers about 3 feet from where we were sitting. We decided that two days in the hot sun was quite a bit. We decided to go and see “Troy”…I mean, Brad Pitt is so damn hot, isn’t he? The movie was good. It was no Gladiator or Braveheart, but it was still a good film. We ate dinner afterwards at Grilled Experience. The whole place was awesome, this Desert Ridge outdoor mall. I mean, the place was like Disney World. After dinner, we dropped off Sean and went to Marvin’s fake uncle’s party store that he just bought two weeks back. Sam is Mr. Al-Khafaji’s good friend from the old country. We had a nice 40 minute visit. Talked about Phoenix living, Scottsdale living, etc. He hooked us up with his real estate gal who is going to look into some office space locations around town. He loaded us up with Red Bulls and pound cakes on our way out. When we got back to the hotel, we quickly freshened up and headed back out to Scottsdale to meet up with Aaron, his girl Vicki, and some of her friends. Sean had called in the meantime, telling us NOT to wear flip flops, as he had been kicked out of line and had to go and buy some $10 tennis shoe special. The line was SUPER LONG. It took us :33 to get in and snag a Grey Goose and Red Bull each. Vicki, Aaron’s girl, was very nice. I had slightly remembered meeting here back in November of 2001. Her friends left as soon as we got there, too. They had some other plans. Anyway, we hung out and then called it a night when the Devil’s Martini closed shop at 1AM. We got complimentary waters and sandwiches on the way out. It’s the least this place could do… 10 bux to get in, each, and drinks were 10 bux each. The place was actually nicer than we had anticipated and we’re glad we went.
Sunday, May 16, 2005
This morning, Sean was actually at our door at 8:29AM. I couldn’t believe it. I was already up and showered by 8:15. By 9AM, we were checked out and on our way to Aaron’s house to get him and Vicki for breakfast. He was going to cook it, but we went to downtown Chandler instead. Oh yeah, prior to going to Aaron’s house, we stopped by Sean’s office in Tempe to get a feel for what 1,000 sq. ft. office space was like in that area, specifically. Very favorable if you ask me. Anyway, after breakfast and loads of laughs, me, Marvin, and Sean went to Starbucks to map out a few locations and talk more about the home health care future in the Phoenix area. There’s LOTS to do here, and you’ll never have all your bases covered but what can ya do? After coffee (White Chocolate Frapuccino, oh so good) and a chat, we said our goodbyes and headed to the Hertz car rental return area. We checked in at America West and headed up to the 25 minute long security line. After that, we perused some stores and waited for our flight. As I’m looking for something to buy “Beauty”, this guy walks up to me as I’m holding a book (he was actually quickly approaching) and says to me, “Excuse me, sir.” I thought this dude was thinking I was going to grip this $10 book. Hell no. He then asked me if I was Peter Filias. I answered, and at this point, I was shocked. He told me he was from the U.S. Marshal’s Office as he showed me his badge and he whispered that the man behind him, talking to Marvin, was with the FBI. All around were about 4 or 5 uniformed Phoenix police officers. They said that they’d have to take us into interrogative detention and that they’d explain to us later why they pulled us away. They took us through the terminal’s walkway, out the side door and into police cars, after they emptied our pockets and frisked us. They drove us (in separate cars) around to the front of Terminal 4, where these fake jail cells were. I was kind of nervous the whole time, while Marvin is laughing with these dudes, trying to make jokes. Me, I hate cops, but I was innocent, damn it! Anyway, the reason they stopped us and pulled us out was because someone spotted us taking pictures of downtown Phoenix on Friday, mainly of the Federal building. Shit man, I take pictures of everything. I wanted to show my family and friends the experience I had this weekend. Once we drove away from Phoenix that day, someone had written down our plate number, which was quickly traced to Marvin’s name, where they quickly traced me to traveling with him. 1) Rental Car, 2) Middle Eastern last name, 3) Out of town travelers, and 4) Video taping and snapping pictures of Federal buildings. They really wanted to make sure that no funny business was going on here. While this is all happening, mind you, Marvin is trying to sell the home health care idea to these gentlemen. Always a salesman, but you need that mentality to succeed. They said as long as we didn’t get the front entrance or the security systems, it would all be cool. I asked them what if I DID get some of that on film. They told me that they’d have to be really convinced that it was merely for sightseeing purposes. During this process, I told the guys that they impressed me and that I didn’t think the authorities did work this well, this fast. The U.S. Marshal said that he was offended. Oh well. It was a laughing matter. I really told them they did some pretty damn good police work, as he told me that was the reason they were able to find us so quickly. Anyway, we didn’t make our 3:06 flight, or the news. We got re-ticketed for the 5:58PM flight, getting us home at 1235AM instead of 9:50PM. Oh well. This is an experience I’ll never forget.
1) How did they see me taking pictures? Did someone see me and call us in? Did cameras see me taking pictures and also get the license plate?
2) How did the U.S. Marshal know that it was me in the gift shop? Did they already get my driver’s license information via fax or web prior to Sunday? Do they have cameras all over the airport, so that when we did our final security check, they snap your face as well as the ID that the security worker holds up for the camera?
3) If Marvin’s last name was Smith, would this have even happened?
4) Did they track us since Friday, spending 48 hours following us? I doubt it.
5) How much money did this cost them? Cost us?