Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Mile High Karma

Perhaps I was due for a decent flight or maybe I had some good flight karma coming my way, but my flight from Amsterdam to New York was one of the best I had this year aside from the lucky 14 hours when I flew business class from Sydney to Los Angeles.

There were two kids sitting nearby but they were well behaved. I attribute that to the young woman sitting next to me. Her mere presence made the entire flight enjoyable.

Normally, I avoid conversation with the people I sit next to. I make the occasional small talk but I keep to myself. I'm sure I had the opportunity to sit next to some amazing and interesting people, but in an attempt to seek out the better ones, I inevitably get stuck next to chatterboxes who spew shit and bombard me with their problems in life. I'd rather not subject myself to their narcissistic psychodramas so I avoid any conversation whatsoever.

I deviated from the norm on my last flight. I first noticed her while I sat at the gate. She wore beige cowboy boots and faded jeans. When she bent over to get something out of her bag, her pink g-string caught my attention. She was tall with an athletic build and reminded me of actress Piper Peraboo from Coyote Ugly. I wondered if she was an American or European. She had high cheek bones and wore funky glasses, but the cowboy boots were telling me she was a yank.

I boarded my flight, stashed my gear, and sat down in my aisle seat. I listened to James Blunt on my iPod for about ninety seconds before I spotted her walking towards me. She stopped in the row in front of me and put a bag in the overhead. That's when she said hello and motioned to the window. Luck of the draw.

She sat down and introduced herself and that spurred on a conversation that lasted on and off for the next seven hours. I gave her some quick background about myself... I was a writer and just came from Monte Carlo. I had to frequently travel for work and have been on the road for about three years straight living out of my backpack combining both business travel and personal travel and trying to squeeze in a long distance relationship. I told her about all the screaming babies or the smelly people or the annoying people who would not leave me alone. I explained that I had horrible flight karma and she smiled while she listened.

"Sometimes you have to put the vide out. Say it with me... 'I'm going to have a wonderful flight to New York.'"

I laughed and humored her. After all, she was a blonde from the West Coast. Figures.

She explained that she firmly believed in the power of positive mental thinking. According to her, if you put enough good vibes out into the universe, eventually some of that positive energy will come your way. Instead of me worrying about all the bad things that could happen on any particular flight, I should have been focusing on the positive attributes. In short, she said that I created my own bad luck.

"What about the rest of the people on my flight? Where they all thinking negative thoughts?" I said as I found an obvious hole in her theory.

"Maybe," she said. "At least on this flight, you have my positive thoughts to keep us safe."

She currently lived in Alaska but grew up in Seattle. Her parents lived in Boulder and she visited France and Austria on a ski trip. I was shocked to learn that she didn't smoke pot although she sat in a few coffeeshops during her two days in Amsterdam.

She carried Barak Obama's book and was about two-thirds of the way through as I stared at her frilly pink book mark. Matched her g-string, I thought. She had graduated from Washington State in the late 1990s. When I mentioned Ryan Leaf's name, she flew into a fit of rage. She played volleyball for Wazzu and frequently encountered Leaf int he weight room.

"He's a total asshole," she mentioned. "It's no wonder he was a bust in the NFL. What a complete jerkoff."

She shared some horror stories about the egotistical quarterback and I got the skinny on the behind the scenes for Pac-10 volleyball.

As soon as our flight took off from Schipol Airport, she took off her cowboy boots and busted out an old-school discman. She also had about twenty CDs and favored angry women artists of the indie rock genre. She listened for a few minutes before the first movie came on. It was the Hilary Swank vehicle Freedom Writers. I skipped it and focused on reading the rest of The Iliad. She loved every second of it and every seven minutes or so she'd turn to me and say, "You're missing out!"

Since our flight was delayed by three hours, we were offered free beer and wine. I opted for the free Amstel and we talked for a little bit longer about our favorite parts of Amsterdam after the first movie ended. The second flick was Pursuit of Happyness starring Wil Smith. I had been wanting to see that and watched it all. Not a bad airplane flick.

The Alaskan girl taught me a few lessons about the powers of positive thinking and I gave her a few travel tips on packing light and a couple of pointers about Denver airport.

* * * * *

I have a personal driver now in NYC. For the second time in a row, I got the same guy to pick me up from a local car service that I use for rides to the airport. He looked just like Big Pussy from the Sopranos and drove me to the airport when I had to go to Monte Carlo. He gave me his card this time and told me to call him to personal book appointments. If he's not going to be gambling at Mohegan Sun or in Atlantic City, he'd be happy to take me anywhere, not just to the airport.

He remembered me. Actually I'm pretty sure he remembered my fat tip because he drove like a NASCAR driver to the airport. Even though it was the tail end of rush hour and he was going the other way, we managed to get to JFK in a record time for a mid-morning drive.

Along the way he told me about an old friend who killed himself when he ran up over 40K in debt to a bunch of local bookies. We also spoke about what it took to be a professional gambler and a successful businessman. They both had similar traits.

When his phone rang he quickly answered, "Where's my fuckin' money!"

It was Tuesday and most bookies collected on Tuesdays (and paid out on Thursdays). That was the drill. He had mentioned to me last time that he booked bets on occasion.

"The fuckin' NBA playoffs are starting up. It's time for the fuckin' idiots who lost during fuckin' March Madness try and chase their fuckin' loses."

"You got any tips for me?" I asked. "I'm about to got to Vegas."

"Everyone and their fuckin' mother is betting on the fuckin' Raptors. You know what that fuckin' means kid? Don't ya? Bet the fuckin' Pistons."

Big Pussy said bet the Pistons. I'll be keeping an eye on his pick.

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