Sunday, January 04, 2009

jfk > bahamas

By Pauly
Paradise Island, Bahamas

Friday was a tough day. Reality had set in. 2008 and the party was over and 2009 was upon us as a light dusting of snow flurries fell upon the city. Weather is always used by writers and film makers as a device to illustrate a change in mood and tempo. The flurries reminded me of that subtle change.

Nicky flew home to Hollyweird and Derek returned from a short trip up to Maine for New Years Eve. I sat on his couch in a daze. Half sick. Half hungover. We watched random movies like The Green Street Hooligans as Derek mentioned how happy he was that he didn't have to work until Monday.

Of course, a wave of bittersweetness overcame me. On Saturday, I had to leave town for a work assignment... in the Bahamas. I knew that I'd be spending the better part of my trip inside of a casino however, the casino was in Paradise. Paradise Island in the Bahamas to be exact. Heck, it can't be that bad can it? I'd be working with some great friends including Otis, who would be making his fifth sojourn down to Atlantis for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.

I was frazzled when I packed on Friday night. So much so, that I woke up a little early to make sure that I re-packed all of my gear. I had to pack for a warm climate in addition to some warmer clothing because they jacked up the AC in the tournament room.

I also had some free time to write which was the first time in a couple of days. I scribbled down my lazy thoughts about Benjo's trip to NYC and NYE with Nicky.

I miscalculated the ride to the airport. I arranged one about thirty minutes too soon. Since there was no traffic on Saturday morning, we got to JFK super quick. My driver said hello to me and that was it. We didn't say two words to each other until he pulled up to the JetBlue terminal.

I was super early. So much so that they were making a last call for the morning flight to the Bahamas. The lady on the intercom called out two names. They were holding up the flight. I recognized them since they were both professional poker players. Fitting.

I took advantage of the free wifi at the new JetBlue terminal. I guess it's not so new to me anymore because I've flown through there almost a dozen times since it reopened in November. I grabbed breakfast and stocked up on Cliff Bars. The cashier joked around with me and asked if I was going to be on a long flight. I had to explain that I was a writer about to embark on an assignment where I never knew when I'd get time to eat. Cliff Bars were my fuel.

I farted around for an hour or so. I read a couple of chapters of a book about John Coltrane and realized that it was going to be tough to read because I'm not a musician and some of the lingo is heavy-handed. That was good because I have to learn.

I wandered around the terminal and saw that a Brett Favre #4 Jets jersey was on a super-discount. Otis pinged me and wanted to know what games I liked in the opening day of the NFL playoffs. He picked all of the away teams (Indy & Atlanta) and I went with both home dogs; Arizona and San Diego.

I eventually arrived at my gate and saw Matt, one of the PR guys from PokerStars. We'd be on the same flight to the Bahamas... if we ever took off. The chick at the gate mentioned that the flight was delayed indefinitely due to a mechanical situation. Almost ninety minutes later, they gave us a new plane at a different gate on the other end of the terminal. We migrated down there and waited another thirty minutes before we boarded.

The flight was 50% full with a handful of online poker players heading down to play in the tournament that I was about to cover. I had an entire row to myself. I watched the playoff game on one screen and watched a flick on the other. Since we were delayed for such a long time, they comped the pay-per-view movies. I watched Eagle Eye. One of Nicky's friends did a re-write on that flick. Parts were cool while others were absolutely horrible.

I watched the sun set from 38,000 feet in the air. There was a ton of cloud cover, so we were soaring about the clouds and a fuzzy orange orb was dipping below the horizon. The light reflected all over the clouds and turned them shades of red, orange, and yellow. I thought about grabbing my camera for a picture, but some things are best left to be enjoyed by myself. It was peaceful and magnificent in the same breath. I was fortunate that I got to see that glimpse of heaven on earth.

I watched the first half of the Arizona and Atlanta game, but we landed just as the players left the field for halftime. Immigration is notoriously long at Nassau airport. Benjo arrived a day earlier and said his trip was a breeze and that there was a steel band playing in the immigration room to entertain everyone while they waited and waited.

I survived immigration and Matt and I found our bags. We breezed through customs and headed outside. Airports can be tricky, especially in places where all of the locals are trying to hustle the tourists. I negotiated a fare to Atlantis with a driver before we got in the cab. I got a decent deal for the both of us and we sped off into the darkness. By the time we arrived it was night time. I could hear the waves but barely saw them.

We arrived at the swanky Atlantis resort. My first time there. I waited at check-in. I was sweaty, jonesin', and eager to find out the score of the game. My room was on the other end of the sprawling complex. It took me several minutes just to locate my tower. The room was freezing because the AC was jacked up. The room included a king size bed. Half of the lights did not work but I had a terrace with an ocean view.

I was starving and ordered room service. $22 Mayan cheeseburger. I also drank an iced tea. With a $2 surcharge and an automatic 15% tip, it came to almost $40. Sweet Jesus! I got a $100/day per diem and within five minutes of my arrival, 40% was gone on just a simple snack.

But, at least I had an ocean view.

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