Tuesday, November 25, 2008

long beach > jfk

By Pauly
New York City

I was up before sunrise on Monday pecking away at the laptop in the darkness of the apartment. I was up before the can fairies arrived to dig through the dumpster and way before a lot of East Coasters began their morning commute. Travel days kill any sort of rhythm or productivity, so I needed an early start to my day. I wrote for an hour and attempted to squeeze a full day of work inside of two hours. That was an impossible task. I was sorta pissed because I actually wanted to relax and enjoy the holidays instead of working on Friday and over the weekend which will be the result. While everyone else rests... I have to play catch up.

Nicky and I ate our customary breakfast at Nick's. I always eat there on the morning before I depart for the airport. It took me less than five minutes to pack since I traveled as light as I ad every been. I stuffed a hoodie and a long sleeve shirt in a bag along with my laptop and iPod. That was it. I didn't bring a larger backpack that I normally lug everywhere I go. Just the clothes on my back. I opted to go super light especially during Thanksgiving week. I had a bundle of winter clothes and lots of toiletries in NYC so I didn't need to bother.

At the last second, I packed my laptop. I have three other laptops in NYC but my worst fears convinced me to bring the laptop. Nothing is worst than getting stranded at the airport during the holiday season because of a delayed flight or some other snafu. Plus, I never knew when inspiration would strike 30,000 feet in the air and I'd want to write something.

The drive to Long Beach was surprisingly easy and quick. Zero traffic from LA. Nicky and I expected the worse and we had plenty of time to kill when I got there thrity minutes early. We hung out in the waiting lot and smoked a bit before it was time for me to go.

If you don't have any bags to check, air travel can be a breeze. The self-service kiosks make checking a simple task. It took less than a minute to secure my ticket. Security lines are always a pain in the ass. When I first started flying in and out of Long Beach (as an alternative to LAX), their small airport was a blessing. Everything was fast and easy. Sure they had limited options as far as food went, but I sacrificed that to avoid the nightmarish clusterfuck of LAX. Over the last couple of years, JetBlue expanded their Long Beach routes which meant that the tiny four gate airport was servicing twice the volume. The result? A slow security line and congested areas near the gate.

I survived the security checkpoint and wandered over to the gate. There were four strollers in plain sight. I let out an exasperated sigh. I knew what was up. I was going to be on a flight full of kids. I'm a well experienced traveler and know how insane Christmas and Thanksgiving can me. That's why I packed ultra light and only took my laptop and the clothes on my back. I purposely picked a Monday afternoon to travel because it was cheaper and I knew it wouldn't be as crazy as the days closer to Thursday when every single flight is packed to capacity and the airports are teaming with late, pissed off, and inexperienced travelers.

Half of the kids at the gate were quiet and the other half were rambunctious. I never knew what I wanted. On one hand, the rowdy kids might expend all their energy and then pass out on the plane. Of course, that's fools gold. Anyone with kids knows that they have boundless energy sort of like us in our 20s when we just scored and eight ball and would be bouncing off the walls until we started to sober up and then snorted a few more gaggers and went ape shit all over again. When I see rowdy and loud kids at the gate, I expect them to continue on that behavior on the plane and hope that their parents can minimize their disruptions. And the quiet kids and sleeping babies? Ah, they are just volcanoes waiting to erupt. Luckily Nicky gave me two Xanax pills before I left. I took one before I boarded. Too bad I didn't have Valium.

My flight was on time and JetBlue boards from the front and rear of the planes to speed up time. Great in theory. I made my way to the back and was held up by a guy who clogged up the aisles and took several minutes to get everything sorted out despite the numerous idle threats from the happy-pill popping flight attendants to step aside and let other passengers get to their seats. The guy was with his wife and young daughter, who I noted was one of the louder kids at the gate. They were seated in the row behind me but the mother kept barking orders at the guy to get stuff out of various bags. They had more than his allotted number carry on bags with them. So much so that they took over the space that should have be allotted to my row. I had to stash my stuff across from me, same goes for the young woman who took the middle seat. She was a dead ringer for Nicky circa 2002, read One Thousand Years of Solitude, and she even wore the same Uggs that Nicky sported.

The inflight TV system didn't work for the first hour. That sucked because the kid behind us screamed and yelled and kicked the seat in front of her, which belonged to the Nicky look-a-like. She started out with the patience of a Zen monk but the kid's outbursts tested her. I blasted My Morning Jacket my iPod and did my best to drown out the kid. Every few minutes, I felt the back of my chair move because the father had to get up out of his seat and retrieve something from the overhead bin. This went on constantly.

I read the new issue of the Economist which featured a few articles on the G20 summit at Bretton Woods. The last time the world powers met at Bretton (in the days following WWII), they created the IMF and the World Bank. Those institutions were essential in the decades after WWII, but now they have been part of the problem for their failure to forecast the huge risk of derivatives markets and credit default swaps.

At Bretton Woods II, I doubt that the G20 will have the necessary time to come up with a solution that will solve the world's financial ails. It's more like a summit of today's economic powers. They're really their to discuss China's currency and how the devaluing of their currency allowed them to become a manufacturing giant.

There were a few articles on the auto bailouts. Another bad idea. They can bounce back in a few years without the government's help if they can create cheaper cars to supply the emerging BRIC markets (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and not worry about making Hummers and SUVs for American douchebags.

Yes, no more bailouts. The bailouts are favors from sleazy politicians in Washington baling out their rich friends who helped get them elected in the first place. You don't actually think you and me help get Presidents and Senators elected, do you?

I was against the AIG bailout. The Wall Street bailouts. Especially the Citibank bailout. Let everyone take responsibility for themselves and let their examples be a warning to their competitors. Put their heads on stakes down on Wall Street. That will force everyone to get their collective shit together or they too will get flushed down the toilet.

Instead, the US government is throwing out life preservers to people who don't even know how to swim and shouldn't have been in the water in the first place. Now everyone who can't swim will jump overboard since Washington keeps tossing out life preservers. All those life jackets add up. Designed in Sweden. Made in Malaysia. Transported in Chinese ships. Thrown out to Ivy League schmucks. Who's paying for them?

I was also immersed in reading about the depravity in the Congo. Same old story of insatiability in central Africa. Blood thirsty rebels waging civil war against corrupt government fat cats who were propped up by Anglo-American and European business interests. The horrific results were anarchy, massacres, rape, and more child soldiers. But since black people in Africa were killing other black people - it's not newsworthy. But Sarah Palin and the dead turkey gets plenty of airplay. Which I thought was fuckin' hysterical.

Ah, sorry for the tangent on politics and world economics and to disrupt you with the depressing aspects of our world. Back to my flight from California to New York...

When the TV system finally got up and running, they gave us a complimentary flicks. I watched Stepbrothers... a stupid, dopey, retarded film with some hysterical parts where I laughed out loud, so much so that the people around me had to look to see what I was howling about. The acapella Sweet Child of Mine scene blew me away.

My JetBlue TV experiences are usually the same. WWII footage. Bourdain. Sports highlights. Yeah, I flipped back and forth between the History Channel, the Travel Channel, and ESPN. It felt good to see everyone on the different ESPN channels kiss the Jets ass after the Breet Favre led Gang Green knocked of the undefeated Titans on Sunday. As always, I avoided the alphabet news networks. Propaganda. Misinformation. Monkeys throwing shit at each other from both sides of the fence.

During the last hour or so, the kid behind us continuously got worse and worse. The chick next to me had been patient and calm for 80% of the flight until the kid kicked the back of her seat one too many times. She whirled around and barked, "That's enough! If you can't stop her from crying, then please stop her from kicking my seat!"

The mother did nothing except give her lip. The flight was full and she couldn't get another seat. She had to gut it out for one more hour. Lucky for me, the Monday Night Football game was finally on.

I picked New Orleans despite all the pundits blowing smoke up the asses of Green Bay. Sometimes, the conspiracy theorist in me thinks that those guys on ESPN are told to slant their feelings towards one side (that case Green Bay) in order to get the amateur bettors and stuck gamblers to bet that way because the Vegas casinos have a lot of action going the other way and would like to balance it out a bit. At any rate, my gut told me that the Saints were going to win at home despite the injuries. My picks have been better than average, dare I say almost good? I had been near the front of the pack in Pauly's Pub for the last five or six games. After the Saints win, I ended up tied for first place. Sweet. Now, I hope I don't choke.

My flight landed ten minutes early to the brand new JetBlue terminal at JFK. I experienced it on my way out of New York a couple of weeks ago. I was happy to discover that a few food places were still open. The deli had a massive line and I didn't want to wait. I grabbed a pre-rolled chicken wrap and rushed out to the taxi line. As soon as I stepped outside, a wet snowflake hit me. A wintry mix. Some sleet with lots of rain. Awesome.

When I left LA, it was sunny and 68 degrees. When I arrived in NYC, it was cold, dark, wet and half the temperature. Now, all I have to do is survive Turkey Day and then I can breathe until Christmas.

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