Monday, March 05, 2007

The Last Zankou

I usually go to Nick's Coffee shop for my last meal in L.A. before I head out to New York City. It had been a routine to stop by Nick's on my way to the airport. I had to break tradition since Nick's is always super crowded on the weekends. I loathe sitting around among a sea of LA Douchebags on weekends waiting to eat.

I had been avoiding flying out of LA on Sunday's and usually scheduled a Monday or Tuesday flight. Generally, those were cheaper and less crowded than the Sunday afternoon flights to NYC. So when we woke up on Sunday, I wondered what we could do for my last meal in LA.

That's when it hit me. Zankou Chicken. It was open early on Sunday for for less than $10 you can get a whole chicken, a few slices of pita bread and their infamous garlic sauce. Nicky drove over to Zankou and we had our bird to feast on. Since my flight would get into JFK at Midnight, I knew that I would not be eating dinner at all. Zankou would be my last food until Monday morning. I had to make it last.

Long Beach airport is great because the lines are usually short for a small airport. You can check-in and get though security in less than five minutes if you use the self-check kiosk to get your ticket. I had to check one bag and went up to the counter service. It added a couple of minutes but I went from curbside to my gate in nine minutes. That would never happen at JFK or at LAX.

I bought a Snickers bar and a water at the small stand in the terminal before I sat down and played online poker for thirty minutes while I waited to board my JetBlue flight to JFK.

Our flight left on time and I was seated one row in front of a crying baby. My kid karma on flights has been atrocious the last couple of months. What the fuck?

The DirectTV on our JetBlue flight kept crapping out. They had to reset it once while we were on the ground. It takes ten minutes to get everything rebooted. From the moment we took off, I passed out for a quick cat nap for about twenty minutes. That would be the only sleep I got thanks to the kid.

I always pick an aisle seat so I can get up and walk around and freely go to the bathroom on cross country flights. The ethnic looking lady next to me in the middle seat slept the entire flight. She brought a small pillow with a pink and yellow flowery pillow cover. She opened up her tray, put the pillow down, and slept for over five hours. The crying baby didn't even bother her.

I tired to watch four plus hours of the History channel. They had a special on the Dark Ages but the TV kept crapping out. They had to reboot it two more times before we even reached Kanas. That's when they offered up free movies to everyone on the flight. Even if the Direct TV went out, the movies were on a different system and would continue to play. It was a nice gesture except that I saw the only movie that was of interest. I saw Fast Food Nation last year and watched the last hour or so. The other two movies were crap such as the Christmas vehicle with Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick. I watched five minutes of it and wanted to get stoned. The other flick was another awful Ben Stiller film where he's the museum security guard. I can't believe that film actually made money.

It was cold when the plane touched down in NYC. I had to wait thirty minutes until my bag magically appeared in baggage claim. I quickly rummaged through it and put on my warmest clothing before I wandered outside to the taxi line. Usually, I'm always approached by gypsy cab drivers who are looking for a fare. They are not real gypsies who drive them. The drivers are usually Haitian or people from the various Caribbean Islands such as Jamaica or Trinidad or the West Indies. NYC yellow taxis on the other hand are usually driven by Middle Eastern men like Persians, Pakistanis or Indians. Gypsy cabs are technically illegal, but sometimes you get a good deal from them and go for it. I blew off three as I rushed outside. As I got close to the taxi line, I stopped in my tracks. It was at least sixty people deep with only three cabs in the queue. There's no way I wanted to stand out in the freezing cold for forty minutes.

I whirled back around and headed back inside the terminal. Before I could re-enter, I was stopped by one of the original Gypsy cab drivers that I blew off. He quoted me a $55 fare plus tolls and I agreed. When he took me to his Lincoln Towncar double parked in front of baggage claim, he told me to get into the car on the driver's side. I didn't think anything about that. I opened the door and saw a blonde with curly hair sitting there with me. He was making us share a ride. I didn't mind because I would save about ten bucks even though it would take ten to fifteen minutes longer. It was cold and didn't want to freeze my ass off in line with the same inbred dipshits I had to fly cross country with.

The driver quoted us separate fares instead of splitting the cost. I tried to get him to come down on the rate and the guy with a Jamaican accent refused to budge.

"OK," I said. "But there's no way we are paying double for the tolls."

He agreed and I quickly engaged in small talk with the blonde with curly hair.

"There's no way I was going to wait in that line. It's cold. I'm tired. I just want to go home," she mentioned.

"I went to Buffalo for my sister's engagement party. I saw my ex-husband there. My Aunt Maggie got drunk and passed out in the bathroom," she said as she recanted the horrible trip she made up to her hometown.

Her stop was 107th and Columbus Avenue and the driver got a little lost finding his ay there. I warned him that the park cut off at 110th street and he didn't believe me. His detour added about five extra minutes. I eventually got home just before 2am.

I sat down and sorted out my mail. That's the routine as I sift through a large bag filled with junk mail, credit card offers, alumni magazines, paychecks, complimentary books by publishing companies, and the occasional J Crew catalogue.

I slept for about six hours in two three hour shifts separated by about an hour of utter misery while I tired to fall back asleep from 6am to 7am. I eventually woke up. I wrote for an hour before I finished up the edits on a piece that was due a few hours earlier. I eventually turned in an article for a 9am deadline around 11:45am. I walked to the bodega and bought the Daily News. I walked over to the diner and ordered a cheeseburger with no fries. I sat at the counter and waited for the old Greek guy to whip up my burger as I read about Carl Pavano's two inning stint in a Yankees spring training game.

I went back home and listened to Fordham University radio while I ate the burger. They played The Grateful Dead back-to-back with Traffic. I could not complain at all with their selection that hour as I started writing my column for Poker Player Newspaper. The deadline is Friday, but since I'm headed to Florida on Wednesday, I set aside all of Monday afternoon to write it. I cranked it out in about an hour and put it aside. I'll work on it again later tonight. I did two hours of editing on Truckin' and the March issue is coming onto form.

I have a Wednesday morning deadline for a magazine article about the WPT Invitational, but since that final table is set to kick off on Monday night, I couldn't actually start it aside from some research. I decided to start writing that around Midnight until 2 or 3am. Then I'll crash, get up and finish it on Tuesday morning. Then my Tuesday afternoon will be free to pack for a week in Florida and work on the rest of Truckin'.

I'm in one of those wacky cycles were I'll be in five or six different cities in the next few weeks. In the next four weeks, I will have set foot in LA, New York, Ft. Lauderdale/Miami, Las Vegas, Nice, Monte Carlo, and Amsterdam. Not to mention a layover in Madrid, Spain on my way to Nice. I have about two weeks of "vacation" planned with a week in Florida and a week in Las Vegas, where I hope I do more gambling than working.

I leave for Florida on Wednesday, with my recent stint of bad flying luck the flight will get delayed and I'll get stuck next to a crying baby.

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