Friday, March 06, 2009

nyc > hampton

By Pauly
Hampton, VA

Corporations hold the power these days. Just look at how the federal government is bending over backwards to dole out welfare checks to them. As an individual, the only power that you have is where you spend your money, which inevitably fattens the bank accounts of the few corporations that you choose to support. I have been diligent about avoiding places like Starbucks and McDonalds over the last decade. The result? hundreds and thousands of my dollars did not inflate the wealth of their executives and shareholders. Instead, my money went to other entities... mom and pop diners/eateries run by my fellow Americans who needed my help if they want to continue to do business and keep up with the mega-corps.

I'm also a creature of habit and familiarity, especially when it comes to travel. I'm willing to spend a few extra bucks (even in these economic times) if it means that I'm going to receive a slightly better product. JetBlue is a perfect example. Sometimes I get a blah flight or crappy service. But compared to the rest of the lot... it's much better than their counterparts. Heck, I don't have a choice when I fly... and have to go the corporate route. Sometimes we're forced to give our money to those faceless entities.

In the past, Nicky and I frequented one particular hotel on the West Side when she came to visit NYC. We had an amazing time there during our first visit to the establishment. We liked it so much that we rebooked it. When the economy tanked at the end of last year, I found an amazing deal for NYE. However, over NYE, we had an awful experience at that hotel. What a difference a year makes. The hotel was a little dirtier and the #9 button was missing from the elevator. And then we had a run in with security on NYE and the night manager was a flat out dick. I think his name was Mr. Assholewithasmallpenis.

Overall, our experience over NYE sucked. Even if we were offered a discount or compensation to return to that hotel, I opted to exercise my right to spend my money elsewhere, because I never want to support them ever again. In my eyes, they are the losers in this battle. They lost the opportunity to have me as a loyal customer, one of who would have recommended their hotel to friends and family. And in these troubling times, they need all the help they can get.

Moving on...

I went across the street and booked a different hotel. Nowhere near the same class as the original hotel, it was a budget hotel for travelers that catered to Europeans. The Euro travelers were used to no frills hotel rooms. Europe is peppered with thousands of those rooms with a bed and a small bathroom... and that's it. Some of them had shared bathrooms. These days hotels (especially in Vegas) go out of their way to have these lush amenities in order to justifying raping you in fees. And then they have the balls to charge you for wifi.

The budget hotel had decent reviews and the price was amazing (including free wifi). I booked it right away and crossed my fingers. We only needed the room for less than twelve hours (the difference between Nicky's flight landing on Wednesday night and the rental car reservation on Thursday morning). Heck, if my mom didn't have a broken foot, we could have stayed there, and my brother's studio is too small for the both of us (and he had to work the next day). So when I dicovered the cheap room via the intertubes... I jumped at the opportunity.

Then I got lucky. Since it was my first time as a guest, the front desk upgraded me to a "suite". I thanked her twice and went up to investigate the upgrade. The suite term was pushing it. In reality, it was two rooms (instead of one) with a queen size bed in each room. We really didn't need the extra space, but I appreciated what they were trying to achieve with their gesture. They won over my loyalty and I felt 2,000% better knowing that I gave my money to the right people. Nicky thought it was a decent hotel (considering we've stayed in some posh places in Europe and we've also stayed in some shitholes) and we decided to book it again when we return to NYC next week.

The room was super hot because I had flu-like symptoms and cranked up the heat. Not the time to get sick before an important travel day. We stayed in. Nicky watched American Idol and I juiced up on different cold medications. Eventually the fever broke in the middle of the night, but it was a restless and sweaty sleep. Only two hours of total slumber in the nine that I forced myself to stay in bed.

I woke up in better health on Thursday, but super exhausted from the lack of sleep. Nicky took the first turn driving. We left NYC at 10:05 and headed towards New Jersey. We made amazing time exiting the city and even with a quick stop on the turnpike, we were in Delaware in two hours. We stopped for lunch/gas and made a bad choice because at the next exit there was both a Cracker Barrel and a Waffle House. I had not driven that I-95 route south of NJ in a very long time and forgot about what sort of eateries were along that route.

I drove from Delaware through Virginia. Everything was fine until we got stuck in DC traffic and I went on tilt. As soon as we got out of the jam, we switched drivers and Nicky navigated us to Hampton.

We made amazing time considering the traffic in DC and three stops (two piss/smoke breaks and lunch/gas). I prepped for the possibility that the rental car came without an AUX outlet for iPods. These days it's a coinflip on what model you get. I went old school and packed a case with CDs. I had not done that in years and picked out 15-20 of my favorite Phish bootlegs from over the years.

The rental car actually had an iPod outlet but we decided to listen to Phish bootlegs. Nicky wanted to get familiar with some of their lesser known material and I wanted to listen to some shows that I attended many moons ago. Albany. Deer Creek. Miami. Japan. Phish and their music accompanied us on the entire drive. Even when we tried to listen to something else, I asked Nicky to put in more Phish.

The Joker had arrived ahead of us. He flew into Norfolk and had a ticket to the Disco Biscuits. Their show was sold out and we could have gone down to the venue in Norfolk to try to snag extras, but i made a tough decision and decided to rest up. I needed to catch up on sleep because I knew I'd get none once the festivities kicked off on Friday afternoon.

We hung out at the hotel and drove across the street to Waffle House for dinner. I missed that place. Greasy food but it's a unique experience. Nicky insisted on going. All she ate was a waffle with chocolate chip and hasbrowns. I ordered the double bacon cheeseburger platter (a non-breakfast staple that I have been eating since my first trip to Waffle House when I was 17 years old). Our waitress was hilarious because she had a wicked Southern accent and looked like someone who would be working in an empty Waffle House in the middle of nowhere.

The hotel made me sign a waiver that I would not throw a party in my room. I signed it as "Page McConnell." There were a few heads wandering around and someone has some dank nugs on them because it stunk of the elevator. Nicky and I waited for the elevator and it opened up. A woman and a man (non-Phisheads which I referred to as civilians) joked that, "The elevator smells like a skunk."

I smiled and nodded to Nicky.

"Just wait 24 hours when the entire hotel smells like a coffeeshop in Amsterdam," said Nicky.

We had a mellow evening... the quiet before the storm. We both did a little work and tried to crash early. Alas, I was still excited even in my worn out state. I woke up on Friday morning like a kid on Christmas waiting to opening up my box of Phishy gifts. The cold is still here, but that's an afterthought. In less than 12 hours, four of my favorite musicians will take the stage for the first time in 4.5 years and expose their souls, guts, and heart for the fortunate fans who made the trek to Hampton for the Phish reunion.

Check out more updates on my Phish blog.

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