I woke up fairly early on Monday considering it was the day after the Super Bowl. Benefits of watching the game at an earlier time on the Left Coast. Shortly before crashing we watched the original Star Wars dubbed in Spanish. Fitting for LA.
The bright sun penetrated the blinds in Nicky's bedroom as I looked out between the slits at the palm tree in the alley. I've been on the road for the last 2.5 years so it is not uncommon to have a thirty to forty-five second lapse of cognitive abilities every time I awake in a different place.
"Where am I?" usually rattles through my brain until I remember.
The palm tree is one of those trigger objects that reminds me that I'm in Hollyweird. One day I'm going to slip into that character in Momento and wake up with total amnesia.
My backpack was peaking maximum density after the four weeks in Oz. I decided to leave it behind because I will be returning to LA for about three weeks. Instead, I borrowed a smaller carry-on bag from Nicky and packed for eight days in NYC along with my laptop bag. With plenty of winter clohes in NYC, I knew I could travel light. I packed all the souvenirs I bought for my family, my thick Aussie guidebook, a few pairs of underwear and my heaviest clothes. I only had a fleece pullover and I accumulated a PokerNews hoodie in Melbourne which would come in handy. That would be my only protection against the single digit temperatures in NYC. I layered what I could. It was too hot in LA to wear anything except a t-shirt.
We walked two blocks to Nick's Coffee Shop on Pico Blvd., which happens to be one of my favorite diners in LA. A gaggle of cops sat in the back booth and Nicky glared at them hoping to find the asstard who gave us a jaywalking ticket 11 months earlier.
At the end of the summer, Nick's cut back in hours and is only open from 7am to 4pm. No more late night runs to Nick's and we'd end up at Swinger's Diner on Beverly which is usually open to 4am. We had been eating a ton of breakfast at home, so I opted for lunch. I knew that my flight to NYC arrived in JFK after Midnight. There would be no places open to eat and aside from a brief snack on the flight, I'd pretty much go the rest of the day without another major meal. Nick's 2/3 pound burger jumped right out at me. I skipped the bacon and went with hashbrowns instead of Nick's trademark crinkle cut fries.
The lunchtime cook tends to rush hashbrowns at Nick's which means the hashbrowns are more to my liking... burnt to a crisp on the outside, and soft and gooey on the inside. The morning cooks are used to making hash browns en masse, whereas the lunch cook makes hashbrowns per order. I was a happy camper. It's a routine that Nicky and I eat at Nick's on my way to the airport for my traditional last meal in Hollyweird.
Long Beach Airport has only four gates and is a small little complex compared to the mega-airports like LAX or JFK. JetBlue pretty much is the bulk of their business as Long Beach gets the spill over flights into LA from DC, NYC, and Las Vegas. JetBlue offers self-check-in kiosks and all you have to do is swipe your credit card to get your boarding pass. Without any luggage to check, I went from curbside through to security in less than ten minutes.
Since I travel so fuckin' much particularly domestically, I expect the worst at the airport with lengthy security lines and the such. I'm very TSA-compliant with plastic bags housing my toiletries and various electronic equipment like chords and cables. I never carry weed with me any more, so if they want to search me, I'm totally cool with it. If they really wanna bust my balls and confiscate a couple of painkillers that I take with me for emergency purposes (e.g. young kids screaming in the seat next to me... they drugs are either for me, the kids, or their parents), the mini-wage rent-a-cops can go ahead and take them.
In Oz, I was stopped twice and had my bags inspected for bomb making material. Both times the guard doing the check said that Americans are used to that sort of hassle and never gave them guff, whereas local Aussies, Kiwis, and Brits were uncomfortable and usually pissy about it.
I packed super light and for my return to LA next week I might just bring my laptop bag back with me. Traveling light in domestic American airports is the way to go. On the flight, I slowly started adding layers of clothing to prep for the cold... a long sleeve thermal shirt followed by a dress shirt. When the plane landed, I added the fleece and the hoodie on top.
The flight to JFK was only 70% full which meant that I had the entire row to myself. Since JetBlue has DirectTV service, I sat in the middle seat and watched the normal programming on my TV. I turned on the other TVs on either side of me. Left was the Map (which gives up to the minute update of the progress of the flight) and right had ESPN which aired rivalry week college basketball games. I watched UConn take on Syracuse before I caught #7 ranked Texas A&M win their 21st straight game at home en route to a victory over Texas.
I also watched an episode of High Stakes Poker on the Game Show Network and caught up on back-to-back episodes of Heroes and Studio 60 on NBC. Like Wil wrote in his blog, Studio 60 sucked donkey testicles while Heroes kicked ass featured George Takei whom Wil happens to know through Star Trek. I missed the random Star Trek reference. Wil wrote:
"I don't know how many viewers caught it, but when George gets into his car, the license plate was NCC1701, which made me leap up and holla (holla? that's what you damn kids today say, right?) which confused the hell out of my kids who have threads of geek running through them, but not necessarily the Trekkie threads..."The flight from Long Beach to JFK was less than five hours thanks to a strong jetstream. The temperature when I left LA was 83 degrees. It was 11 when I arrived in NYC with a wind chill of about zero. I rushed off the flight and was the first person in line at the taxi stand. The Pakistani guy must have been there a while because when I slid into the back, the seat was ice cold. My ass froze within minutes and I had to take out a stuffed kangaroo souvenir to sit on in order to keep my ass warm.
I had to sort through five and a half weeks of mail. I have a routine and sort the magazines from the junk mail. I pick out the bills and the paychecks and place them in a different pile. I sort out the bank statements and financial statements from Edward Jones.
Then there's the random pile of mystery items which is usually junk mail but you never know. I then tear into the packages. I get random books, DVDs, and music CDs mailed to me from publishers hoping I can review them on my blog. This instance, I had a package that contained a poker documentary film called No Limit. I also got a press kit for an emo-punkrock-garage-band from Brooklyn which included a six song CD and a special message from the bass player.
It took me close to two hours to sort through the mail mess. I had several W-2s from various freelance clients such as Fox Sports and Poker Player Newspaper. I also got a couple of 1099s from various investments that I earned interest on. The disturbing one was from John Hancock and the insurance money that I inherited after my grandmother died two Decembers ago. I'm taxable on $10.16 of interest. What a waste.
Jerry sent me a Happy New Years card featuring his twin girls who both have names starting with J. I just noticed that. I found a new credit card in the mystery mail along with fourteen other credit card applications. There was an invitation from my college alumni group to see a jazz concert at Lincoln Center of a quartet I never heard of before. When I saw the price, I tossed it aside. I was also invited to an alumni event for my high school at a swanky bar in Midtown. I would not be able to attend since I have to work at the end of the month in LA. I trashed that too.
I was happy to see a couple of paychecks, but two freelance clients had not paid me yet. One of the editors apologized because they sent out unsigned checks a few weeks ago and told me not to cash it. I never got one, so problem solved. As is, those checks should arrive when I'm in LA, which means I'll cash them in early March for work I did at the end of November and beginning of December. Of course, I'm waiting on a monster check from PokerStars which most likely will arrive the day after I leave which means it will be sitting around for three weeks before I cash it, unless I get Derek to forward me the check in LA. I should have just asked PokerStars to send me a check to Nicky's address in LA.
On Tuesday, I was hit with a sick bug. It was a cold/flu combo and I knew I'd get hit after getting an extra month of summer and having a warm week in LA. My warm body was not prepped for chilling single digit weather. I spent most Tuesday feeling like crap and my writing output was diminished by 80%. I uploaded a few pics and wrote a couple of things, while I answered several hundred emails.
I visited my aunt and uncle and gave them souvenirs. I ended up talking to my mother for ninety minutes and getting the skinny on her throat surgery. That was the longest I spoke with my mother where we did not get into an argument or started screaming at each other. Usually I can't stand more than ten minutes with her before I wanna shoot myself. She would not show me the scar on her throat. She has too much pride because she even wore a scarf inside the apartment. I suggested that she retire soon because the commute into Lower Manhattan three days a week was a chore. She admitted that she wouldn't know what to do with all that free time.
I eventully ordered in Chinese food with Derek. I had been craving the garlic chicken for weeks and we watched the Knicks game. I wanted to go to bed early and found myself up until 3am writing after I felt much better when all the Contact flu meds kicked in with the combination of a generic Vicodin and a B-12 pill.
I guess that I was more ill than I thought because I slept an unusual seven straight hours. I didn't recall waking up once and had bizarre dreams about paddling kayaks in Atlanta. Apparently they purposely flooded all the MARTA stations and told commuters to paddle to work or their intended destinations. I finally woke up feeling blah but much better than the day before. I popped a few more generic Vikes and downed a Vitamin C and B-12 pill along with some non-drowsy flu medication.
I flipped on the stereo and discovered that The Beatles arrived in NYC 43 years ago today according to Fordham University radio, one of my favorite radio stations of all time that I find myself craving time to time while on the road. They played plenty of deep cuts off of Beatles b-sides all morning as I wrote. Lots of old blues covers and early 60s pop as compared to the type of music they evolved into once they became better musicians, toked a little weed, and dropped enough liquid sunshine to dose Des Moines, Iowa.
The morning DJs at WFVU play an interesting eclectic mix of classic rock, jambands, indie rock, and weird world music. It's not uncommon to hear an old Bob Dylan ballad, Rilo Kiley, Femi Kuti, and Umphrey McGee's in the same 15 minute stretch.
Time to head over to the local diner for a greasy cheeseburger.