New York City
Travel days always begin the same, with a forced enthusiasm mixed with apprehension. I try to stay as positive and flexible, with the lowest possible expectations. I prep myself for a grueling trip because it's far more pleasurable to expect the worst. If/when I expect a smooth journey, I consider that a nice little bonus in life. I traveled so damn much that I know anything can go wrong at any second, especially when you don't expect/prepare for setbacks, because the littlest of problems can morph into a monster and ruin a potential journey.
I ate my customary last meal in LA at Nick's, devouring chocolate chip pancakes, a popular West Coast breakfast dish for yours truly, but I rarely (if never) eat that in NYC where bagels and breakfast sandwiches from the Greek diner start my day. I figured I'd get my fill of LA foods as a group of surly cops waltzed in and set up shop in the back booth. After breakfast, Nicky drove me to Long Beach airport and traffic continued to be light all week (Spring Break for most of the kids and Passover/Easter holidays). I got to the airport with more time to kill. I was ahead of schedule all morning -- which is far more relaxing than rushing against dwindling time. I said a brief goodbye to Nicky because she was flying to NYC a mere 24 hours later.
I checked in to my JetBlue flight using a kiosk and despite being on the road for 2 weeks, I had a single bag. I packed so light for the trip that I only had my carry-on wheelie (no backpack) and tossed my laptop inside one of the pockets. I can pack light to NYC because I have some clothes stashed. I love it when I can travel as light as possible and I scoff at all of the materialistic nits who overpack for weekend getaways.
Security was a breeze without a line. Life was good until I arrived at Gate 4a, which was overflowing with my fellow passengers. Long Beach is a tiny airport (which is why I travel the extra distance to use Long Beach instead of Burbank and/or LAX) with twenty seats at the gate. Hmmmm, twenty seats for 150+ passengers? People were standing up, slumped against walls, and sitting down all over the ground. It took a while to navigate to an empty spot. The gate looked like a refugee center and I was ninety minutes early. Wait a sec, I thought, is this SoCal or India?
I took note of a few warning signs of a potential disaster, for example, the dozen or so strollers. That meant no less than 12 children, at an age when uncontrollable fits crying is common and inevitable, were on my flight. I'm sure most of them were going to be fine, but it takes just one baby to ruin a cross country flight. Alas, there were more rambunctious children, fifteen to twenty more, and my gate had turned into Romper Room with babies crying, little kids running around, begging their parents for food, and a girl with purple bunny ears constantly asking when they get to go on the plane. Yeah, I unknowingly stumbled into a slew of families flying home after spending the week in SoCal -- either taking the kids to Disneyland on Spring Break or heading to visit relatives for Passover Seder.
I reached for the Vicodin, something to dull the pain of being on the kiddie shuttle to JFK. I don't mind kids running around in a park or playground, but kids can't let loose on an airplane which is why they get antsy and are prone to outbursts that tilt me to no end. Sitting on planes is not fun, which is why adults get to drink booze or pop pills to reduce the stress and strain. Even the free TV on JetBlue isn't enough to contain kids' fickle attention spans, which is why I wanted as many of them to run themselves ragged at the gate so they would be tired during the flight to JFK. But as some of you with kids already know -- there is no down time because kids are on and they stay on until the go to bed. Since I was on a noon flight, chances of sleep were slim to none -- unless sly parents were spiking their kids' juice boxes with Xanax and/or Benadryl.
We had an almost-full flight with only two empty seats. I lucked out and the seat next to me was empty, but that was the only good fortune I would find. Why? Two babies in the row behind me. Shortly after take off, when it became apparent when one was not going to stop crying and the other shit its pants so fierce that it felt like I was flying in a septic tank, I popped a Xanax to calm myself down. I wasn't anxious, but rather on the verge of lashing out at the parents and telling them to lock their babies in the bathroom because it was so friggin' loud that my Bose headphones and the roar of the engines could not drown out the incessant static. Plus, the stench of baby shit was a reminder why I don't want to have kids until I'm rich enough to hire a team of British nannies to wipe their arses clean.
The Xanax prevented me from saying something that would get me in trouble (with weary parents, the TSA, FBI, et al) and the Xanax/Vicodin one-two punch allowed me to sink in deep in my seat and focus on the TV in front of me. After a while, somewhere over New Mexico, I got used to the crying, wailing, screaming and the baby who busted ass got a clean diaper. I settled in with the History channel and the Nazi's determination to win the battle of the skies after the US entered the WWII.
After an hour or so of stock footage of dogfights and computerized re-enactments, I watched a VH-1 Behind the Scenes special on Heart. I was too young to know the 1970s version (and original incarnation) of Heart, and I caught them during their chart-topping days in the mid 1980s when you couldn't listen to Z-100 in NYC for an hour without hearing a Heart tune.
Upon my return to NYC, I immediately begin the arduous process of sorting through my mail. A banker's box spilling over with a three months' worth of crapola greeted me. Bills. Junk mail. Catalogs. Alumni magazines. Casino offers. Credit card applications. Travel brochures. Poker magazines. Save the whales.
My routine is the same: smoke a doobie and then dump the batch of mail on the floor. I seek out checks initially before I continue on with the sorting process. Once I get everything into piles, then I can toss out the bullshit, shred the incriminating mail, and open up the rest.
I spent most of Friday reading through the last quarter of financial statements and collecting all of my 1099s. I did a preliminary round of tax prep before I left LA and I needed another full day or so before I can tackle the burdensome task. No one likes paying shakedown money, especially me, but sometimes you gotta suck it up an pay the baddest motherfucker on the block, which in this case is the IRS. It's decriminalized extortion, but I'd rather be very diligent at paying The Man, Uncle Sam, and the Boogie Man their cut, than incur their wrath.