Monday, March 02, 2009

long beach > jfk

By Pauly
New York City

On Friday afternoon, I printed up the last couple of chapters and read the last 50K words. When I finished that task, I stuffed the entire pile into a green folder. My two week vacation away from Project Z had begun. Originally, I set February 28th as a deadline. When I realized that I wrote at a slower but more intense pace, the deadline was re-set for the end of March. My biggest fears were that I wouldn't even make it to 100K words by now. However, after healthy spurt last week, I barely made it. Which meant that I could take a guilt-free break away from things and pick up the pieces in my life that had fallen to the ground since I stepped away to focus on more self-involved pursuits.

I had been diligently working on the new draft since the Bahamas assignment in early January. I took a couple of day offs (mainly for mental health days and to fly back to NYC one weekend for an unexpected business trip), but pretty much wrote everyday for six weeks ranging from 6 to 16 hours per day. During that stretch, it appeared that outside forces conspired against me. I dealt with numerous financial headaches (including having to fire one broker; he got off easy and lucky that I didn't kick down his front door and pilfer his personal things). Both Nicky's mom and my mother were hospitalized at some point during all of this, which added an unexpected level of complexity to our lives. And I also made a tough decision when I turned down a trip to Portugal for an assignment. And they would have paid me in Euros too.

Alas, my six week experiment playing house with Nicky had come to a close before just as the novelty was on the cusp of wearing off. I returned to the road for the month March, which will resemble much like previous March's when I delved into my passions for music and college basketball. Instead of the Langerado festival in Florida (and hanging out with Jerry and Sweet Sweet Pablo), I'm road tripping down to Virginia to see the Phish Reunion. And although Derek and Senor are sitting out March Madness this year, I still get to check it out when I fly to Vegas at the end of the month for an important weekend (business meetings, research, personal degenerate gambling).

On my last day in L.A., I slept in instead of jumping out of bed and heading straight to my office across the hall. I walked to the post office and basked in the warmth of L.A. since I knew that there was a storm heading towards NYC.

Nicky and I were in search of a hotel for the DC leg of our trip after the Phish shows in Virginia. We got plenty of recommendations thanks to Brit (inexpensive alternatives in Maryland), Grubby (the most expensive hotel in DC - but our room came with a goldfish), Betty (a posh boutique hotel downtown), and Daddy (Old Town Alexandria). I managed to find a sick deal on a bed & breakfast and we're keeping our fingers crossed.

I spent almost an hour on hold waiting to deal with someone at a major ticket brokerage firm that I have done an extensive amount of business with in the past for both concerts and sporting events. The last batch of Phish tickets failed to arrive in a timely manner. There have been lots of horror stories with people getting ripped off by brokers and scalpers and hotels, so I was more anxious than usual. Supposedly the tickets shipped, but according to the Fed Ex tracking number it was still in the initial stages. Nothing I could do about it until Monday.

Nicky and I watched a flick on Saturday night called Body of Lies, a modern-CIA vehicle directed by Ridley Scott and starring Leo and Russell. I dug parts of it and the overall concept, but Nicky mentioned that despite the major players involved, the film did poorly at the box office.

When the flick ended, I started to worry about the weather. As big storm headed towards NYC, I was supposed to fly there on Sunday night... just at the time the snow was scheduled to hit. JetBlue offered to let me rebook for free. After their Valentine's Day Blizzard fiasco a few years ago, JetBlue has been extremely vigilant about inclement weather, especially to/from JFK. I tried to rebook for earlier flight on Sunday morning but that was full. No more seats. I should have paid more attention to the weather, but I spent most of Saturday catching up on stuff and packing instead.

I had to gamble. If my flight got canceled, then I'd have to fly into NYC on Tuesday or Wednesday... if I could find space.

I woke up super early and checked the flight status. JetBlue canceled the flights after mine, but my flight was scheduled to take off and land on time. Nicky and I went to Nick's coffeeshop for my traditional "leaving L.A." meal before she drove me to Long Beach. I sort of half-expected to arrive at the airport and find out that my flight got canceled. I told Nicky to stick around the parking lot for a few minutes just in case. As expected, the check-in area was a zoo. Everyone who was on the canceled flight showed up hoping to get on the last flight into JFK. One hundred people trying to fly stand-by. Yikes.

My flight was scheduled to land just as the snow began to fall and I caught a bit of luck and the plane took off. There were no crying babies around me and I sat next to a hipster and his girlfriend. Typical L.A. douchebag. Skinny jeans. Trucker's hat. Aviators. And his girlfriend wore Uggs, tights, and over-sized sunglasses. Lucky for me, he passed out just as we took off and he slept most of the trip.

I popped a Xanax and kept falling sleep... but never stayed asleep for more than five minutes. I watched college hoops and Kansas whoop Mizzou at home. I also watched a bit about Manchurian candidates on the National Geographic channel.

My flight landed fifteen minutes early in light snow. There was a delay in the baggage transfer and my entire flight stood around for a half hour before we were told that they made a mistake and sent us to the wrong belt. I walked outside and failed to negotiate a deal with a gypsy cab driver. There seemed to be substantially less of them because of the snow and the lengthy line at the taxi stand. I shuffled over and stood behind a suit who told his wife that there were at least 150 people in front of him. I estimated about a hundred, but either way, I was going to freeze for a while because I only packed a hoodie. All my winter clothes were in NYC.

Luckily, the roads were clear and my cabbie drove fast. I stayed up fairly late since I was still on West Coast time and used to staying up to 3 or 4am. A small snowdrift collected against the window as the snow steadily fell through the night. I sorted through the majority of mail an fished out checks and other important tax documents. I went through the usual sorting process for the rest of the mail... promo CDs from PR reps, poker magazines, alumni magazines, music magazines, junk mail (Vegas hotel room offers and credit card offers), statements, bills, and even Wil Wheaton's book arrived.

I read most of Wil's book and watched a documentary about John Coltrane that alluded to the fact he had an $80 day heroin habit (in addition to being a severe alcoholic) back in 1957 before Miles Davis fired him.

I finally drifted off to sleep and when I woke up, the city was under a blanket of white.

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