September 1, 2011
Dateline: SF International Airport
So we’re sitting here in San Francisco, having gone through Security, and it’s all good. The line I keep texting back to the boys is, “See the nice doggie (Is that Charlie?); see the nice doggie walk by; my, he IS a nice doggie.
When it came to security, there were lines up the wahzoo, about a total of 600 feet worth, in rows such as you see at the bank. We walked up the corridor, and we walked down the corridor; we walked up, down. It is so interesting to me; they make a constant stream of announcements, and I can’t understand a word the guy says, except the phrase Salt Lake City. It may be me, but I think he needs to slow down.
The people of course are the story. Well, that was after I decided that the bathrooms were probably not the real story. I looked for the handle to flush the urinal-there was none-it flushed by itself. I looked for the handle to dispense the soap-there was none; it dispensed itself. I looked for the handle to turn on the water-there was none; it turned itself on. No need for a man, I guess.
The kids are the most noticeable because they are the only unreserved folks on the premises. They screech, and if I didn’t have
Ke$ha playing on the phones, I could hear them. On the airport shuttle I started talking to the guy next to me, because he was speaking in Gaelic (I stuck to English). I assumed he was going back to Ireland, but he said no, he lived in Pittsburg and was traveling with a group of fellow Irishmen, en route to play some Irish football.
Of course, he knew all about County Clare, and told us that the traditional music of the region was renowned for its quality. He also told me that on Sunday, at three o’clock, Carrigaholt time, there would be a championship game on the TV. He said to go into any pub that we encountered, and we would see a good game. I can’t think of a thing that I would rather do.
I told this fellow that we were going to walk the Burren Trail, or at least 26 miles of it, and he was very enthusiastic. It was the type of conversation that I had expected to have, and hope to be able to continue that trend as our travels progress.
We ate dinner last night at the hotel across the street from our own Holliday Inn, for no other reason, than we thought it might be nice to “go out” for dinner. Dining out for both Annie and me is challenging. She can’t eat gluten, and I can’t eat meat, so the two of us are generally happy to find anything palatable, and leave it go at that. It’s hard for Celiacs, but it’s also hard for veggies, because meat is the preferred game. At our hotel, there was one dish on the menu that was meatless; at the one we went to, there were two. I went for the Mediterranean Vegetable Primavera; Annie had a chicken dish, and we were quite happy.
We were both up a little after four this morning, which was way later than normal for me, but only an hour or so early for her. We were very comfortable, and had already done all the logistical stuff, so I was looking at sfgiants.com, and making a few notes for my blog, while Annie was reading the paper. One nice thing is that the dry run down to SF last Friday, prepared us pretty well for what was going to happen today.
At this minute, sitting here in the SF airport, I feel as though I am in a little protected cocoon. The music is comfortable, but not too loud. If Ann says something to me, I can hear her. But I really can hear almost nothing else. We originally sat in the seats closest to gate 47, so that when the time came, we would not be at the end of the queue. I think it is a good strategy, because on the first leg of our journey, our seats are preassigned, so it doesn’t matter where we are in the line.
At this time, however, as I peer out from my cocoon, the people are drawing around us, sort of encircling us, and it is just a little disconcerting. Ann has promised to let me know when she thinks it’s time for me to get organized. Compared to reading, writing in a crowded place is a thousand times easier. I have decided it’s because you can continue to read, even if it’s not making sense, and it’s all good. But if I am writing, and my mind wanders, then it’s Swahili, or whatever. Actually, the thought process really can’t stop; hence the time seems to fly by like a red-tailed hawk.
It reminds me of the time I sat in the Les Schwabb lobby, while the truck was being worked on, and had one of the best writing sessions in the world. I would get up to use the restroom, and leave my lappy and accompanying mess, all spread out over the surface of the table, and never give it a second thought. I was certain that every counter-person, or employee of the place, was watching my stuff more carefully than I ever could have done myself. It was kind of fun, especially since the popcorn was tasty as all get-out, and it was free.
[I was writing about the airport, while sitting in the plane, and here’s what developed.] So this is too good to pass up. I am sitting in my aisle seat, with my two seat mates to my left, and a service cart in the center (and only) aisle, literally pressed up against my right side, while the attendants (they work in pairs) serve all of the passengers for the three or four rows in either direction.
A year ago I would have had to bail out of that scene-and that is no lie. The unexpected (and unfair?) presence of the cart, with the crush of humanity in a confined space, would have sent me over the edge. Now, I simply revel in the fact that it’s all behind me. As I try to analyze why it would have bugged me in the past and why it doesn’t now, the only thing I can suggest is that it was the unexpected nature of the action, and an inability to let it flow as it was intended.
Instead, noting that the male attendant still was wearing his tie, whereas the female attendant was allowed to exchange her high heels for flats, I asked him what was up with that?
“Oh I can wear it or not,” he said. “But if I don’t wear this, I have to wear a turtle neck. It’s probably better than the tie, but then it gets warm. Besides, normally I wear a vest over this (indicating his white shirt) but it’s in the cleaners. Would you like some pretzels, peanuts or cookies? Something to drink?”
“No, thanks, I’m good.”
The other attendant jumped into the last of our conversation. “I used all my points to buy a winter coat.”
The male attendant replied, “I did that. It took all that I had, and then I had to wait a long time to build more up.”
They drifted on to the next set of rows to serve, and I started to think about my backpack and the supplies I had packed. I had cookies, of course, some of them cleverly broken up into small pieces, mixed in with some trail mix, and banana chips. I also had some peanuts, and I had a whole tuppy of cherry tomatoes, picked yesterday morning from Casey’s garden, and just waiting to be munched. I also had a small bag of vinegar potato chips, and Annie just offered me her tuppy of cucumbers. What could be better?
I feel so tech savvy with my lappy and my headphones. If I get tired of typing, I will just switch my headphones to my IPOD, and maybe take a little schnooze. The whole experience is somewhat surreal, because the headphones and the music, make it impossible to hear anything, even the plane’s engines. I really can’t say that I even feel the vibration, because most of the time it’s smooth as glass. When there is turbulence, it still seems very removed, as though it’s happening in the next plane over, whatever that means.
It’s 1:09PM at this point and that means we’re drawing on to forty percent of the trip to NY done. They are bringing water and coffee through at this time. I think we are offered a meal on the second half of the journey, but neither Doll nor I will partake. (OK, I was wrong. Annie tried the meal just to see how bad it was. Enough said.)
Ann and I managed to reverse our roles for this journey. She has the backpack in the carry-on rack, with a purse on her lap, and nothing checked into the belly of the plane. I am the one with the duffel bag, jammed (not literally) with more clothes than I could possibly need, and checked into the luggage compartmen. That’s partly because I packed for seventeen days, and we’re only going for eleven or twelve or until whenever the ticket says. I never even brought in my suitcase from the car, when we arrived home last Saturday, from the first attempt to fly out.
At the time I just figured I‘d leave it until I needed something out of it. Then we ended up rescheduling everything, so I didn’t need to repack it. Some is good-more is better. As long as it was not over the fifty pounds, I figured it didn’t matter.
We have an hour and forty minute layover in NY, which seems pretty benign to me. The whole experience can only be described as benign. The only time I might have been a little harried, was when we went through Security, but that was only because of the logistical difficulty of taking off my shoes, and having to put my backpack and anything else I had, into the gray plastic bins. I was hopping around, and trying to do too many things at once, and Annie told me to just slow down for a minute, which I did.
Even then, it wasn’t hard, like it used to be, because I am totally together in my head. There have been no surprises, and I have been careful not to ignore eating and drinking. Now, I think it is time to take a food break.
So, lots of good stuff happening. New York was so fast, that it seemed a bit like a blur. I want to talk about Pat for a moment. I knew the story was in the people. So Pat is this kid, about Casey’s age, or so who was my seat mate on the trip from Cali to New Your. I introduced myself to him when he first arrived. I was on the aisle, across from Doll, who also had an aisle seat. Pat and I chatted briefly, before he took a couple slugs off something that came from a flask, ordered a Bloody Mary, then a second one, and then went to sleep.
When he awoke, we were two-thirds of the way across the country. He began talking to his neighbor on the other side, describing the party he was flying across the country to attend. It was a Labor Day party, and he said he had attended it the previous two years. It was a pretty big deal, which might have seemed obvious, as he was traveling across the country to be there. At one point, he suddenly turned to me, though it was his friend sitting across the aisle he spoke to.
“Jesus, Cy, I don’t even remember where we dumped the Mercedez. You?”
“Dude, we didn’t have the Mercedez.”
“Oh, Yeah. I knew that.”
He went on, talking to me now, Cy apparently forgotten. “You heard about Tejada, yeah?”
“You mean being designated for reassignment?”
“Yeah, but no. I mean about how he’s in this country illegally?”
“Whoa. I don’t think so.”
“No man. Back in the day, before he came up, the scouts went down and recruited him, but they said they were only interested in younger guys, 22 and younger. So Tejada lied about his age, and he came into the country with his last name changed to Tejachas. Anyway, the government is after him, because he hasn’t been paying taxes on all of that loot, all of these years.”
I talked to Pat for a while, and the impression I got, was that he was either independently wealthy, or full of baloney. It all was revealed though, in the last ten minutes of the flight. I had noticed immediately that upon boarding, he had whipped out a skull cap, of a very colorful Rastafarian nature. I had kind of assumed that he was returning to New York, but he was actually a Humboldt County guy, with three cannabis clubs in San Francisco, and he told me he was a commercial grower. Well, I guess. It explained a lot.
Anyway, New York saw us get off the plane, and saunter right into the airport, where it took all of five minutes to find our gate and get situated. In one of the only disorienting moments I experienced the whole trip, I was making my way along behind Doll, who was angling for gate 22, but I was experiencing technical difficulties.
First I dropped my passport, then my pants sagged dramatically, and finally the silly Chronicle I’d been hanging onto ever since we left SF, began to line our route. Annie turned back to see if I was tagging along, and noticed my plight, as I tried to pick up the Chron, retrieve my passport, and pull up my pants. Wait, that doesn’t sound right. I mean, I had to adjust them. The only thing I forgot to bring with me was a belt. The pants I was wearing, when we left Wednesday morning were snug, so I forgot to put one on. Well, the new Levis I had purchased for the journey were not snug, and whereas, it wasn’t a factor as long as I was sitting down, when I tried to walk, my pants did what pants will do, when they are not properly fastened. I said to Annie, “I’m stuck.” and she suggested that we stop, regroup, and then carry on.
I was a man on a mission, and the mission had nothing to do with my pants, and everything to do with Terra Jean, my lappie. She needed some priming with the electricity juice, and the plane was woefully inadequate. However, the airport in NY was fully able to hook a brother up, and though we had to split up for maybe twenty minutes, eventually we convened at the same table, and Annie managed to score a glass of wine...but not without a series of the most unexpected events.
She started by noting that there was a bar, within easy commuting distance, about twenty steps away. She watched closely for a couple of minutes to get the lay of the place, and then meandered over for what she hoped would be a glass of California Cab, but she would probably gone with anything red.
When she reappeared, cab-less, I asked what happened. She was rummaging through her purse looking for...big drum roll here, her ID. Yes, evidently, between California and New York, Annie lost thirty years, and the gal (she was not a warm and fuzzy individual) asked her for her for proof of her age. I don’t think Annie saw the positive side of the request, that she should have been flattered.
“You want to see my ID?” asked Annie, incredulously, and not necessarily happily. “Wow. OK. Let me go get it.
I said to her, “They want to see your ID? Why?”
“I don’t know. It must be a New York thing.”
“Well, hang on. The white knight will take care of this.”
What I meant to do was get a glass of cab for her. As it turned out, I didn’t even get to place an order, because as I entered the bar, which meant simply strolling the same twenty feet, I was headed off by a guy who was at least my age, but spoke in what sounded like an Italian accent so thick I could not understand him.
The only thing I understood was, “What do you want?”
Since I was in a bar, I figured he might have had a clue, but nonetheless I said, “I want a drink.”
He said a bunch of stuff, but the gist was that they were closed. I looked around at all of the people in this bar, all seemingly occupied by the same thought that I had, since they were all drinking booze, and told him I was confused. He started getting excited, as I indicated that there didn’t seem to be a lot of truth to that statement that they were closed. Again, he rattled off some LOUD comments, which included the phrase, “last call.”
What do you do when a guy in a New York bar is hollerin’ at you to leave, because they’re already closed? I left. I don’t know if the bar was open; I don’t know if he just didn’t like my “kind.” I do know that a glass of cab is not worth finding out, especially when there was another facility within the same small number of steps, and though Doll cringed at the thought of paying nine dollars for some red, whose name was unfamiliar to both of us, she did so. A polite young man came by right away to collect her money, but he was evidently not old enough to actually serve it; another wait-person had to serve it. Such a funny process just to get a glass of wine.
Meanwhile, Terra Jean was sucking up the electricity, and what we thought was going to be at least two hours’ wait time, turned out to be closer to one hour. So I had to unplug Terra Jean, and get organized again, including hoisting up my pants.
So I have mentioned that on the first leg of the journey, we sat opposite each other on the aisle. We were lucky. On the second leg, we started out in the same row, and I was again on the aisle, but Doll had the window seat, with a couple of folks in between us. I had a nice lady named Beth, sitting by me for all of about ten minutes, before she ended up moving to the back of the plane to be seated by her husband.
No one seemed to get a seat next to the person he or she wanted to. And they had made a big deal at the airport about how the plane was filled, and seats could not be changed. Anyway, Beth’s husband had been bending an ear or two, and found a candidate willing to switch seats, so that Beth could join him in the back. It turned out that the fellow who was so nice about it all, was in the same boat, and by switching seats, had ended up only one row away from his own wife and daughter.
The long and the short of it was, that he still couldn’t sit next to his own wife, but he offered to switch seats so that Annie and I could sit together. He was so nice, but said he was a teetotaler, so no, I could not buy him a drink. But the thought was there. So we got to sit together for the flight from New York to Shannon, and wasn’t that nice?
I had thought that the trip from NY to Shannon was a lot longer than the first half of the trip, but they turned out to be within five minutes of being the exact same length of time, five hours and thirty minutes. Hardly enough time to get relaxed.
Besides, as I was telling JT, the planes that I had mentally prepared for, had swimming pools, tennis courts, and a baseball diamond on board, or I would never have made the trip. As I said, I was fully prepared for this trip, and my preparations included a mental outlook that couldn’t be beat.
I am so tickled that I managed to be able to travel with a modicum of normalcy, in that no one tried to take me out and have me shot for smuggling drugs on an international flight. I had taken about eight of my oatmeal cookies, and put them in a sandwich zip-lock, and simply put them into my little food case, along with all of that good stuff I mentioned before. It was so innocuous, and reaffirmed my faith that there is some semblance of order to the universe.
Of course, that sense of order will be thoroughly disrupted, along with my faith, if the packages we mailed from home fail to materialize in Carigaholt. Oh ye of little faith.
So, now it is eleven forty-six PM, California time, and we have been flying for close to four hours, so we are on the downhill slope. Since we’re still 37,000 feet up in the air, there is still quite a bit of downhill slope still to go. so we’ll hold off further discussion about downward slopes until after we have landed.
Life on board our plane is a lot easier when you smile. I haven’t wanted anything to eat or drink on either flight, but I have done lots of smiling. As I left the first plane, one of the nice attendants held out a baseball sized card with a picture of a Delta plane on it and asked me if I’d like it. Delighted, I gave her another big smile and told her I’d love it, but why did she offer it to me, and no one else, I had wondered aloud.
It’s because you wouldn’t take anything else,” she said.
So now we are getting close to Ireland, and I have come to the conclusion that air travel, while challenging, is not the same as it used to be, and it is not the bamboo under the fingernails torture that I have made it out to be all of these years. It is impossible for me to determine, at this juncture in time, if this is a formation of a new outlook, or only the fleeting wave of euphoria, accompanying the successful conclusion of this particular adventure. However, I suspect that things will pretty much end up the same, only different in the future. For now, the future has arrived, Terra Jean’s future is limited, and it’s getting light out. Considering it’s 12:02 midnight, Pacific time, and 8:00 AM Ireland time, that makes sense. I think I’ll close my lappie, close my eyes, but keep my mind open.