Tag Archives: traveling

Quick Stop to DC, or How I Learned to Anticipate Gentrification

trans character writing panel imageI just jumped into DC this weekend after an absence of a few years, taking a quick flight from Detroit while we’re still on vacation to attend an LGBTQ book festival on U Street. It’s been truly fantastic to see old friends and have the kinds of sincere conversations that are hard to find with people one meets in one’s forties instead of in one’s more vulnerable youth. I suppose we erect sturdy fortresses in the interim, but I’m not sure why or if that’s helpful for us.

The OutWrite festival was successful, and here it is only in its fourth year. It would have been nice to know before I left Walla Walla that I’d be responsible for bringing my own books to sell, because then I’d have had more than my reader’s copy with me. (Crossing fingers the Internet pulls through for me and people shop online to get them.) I was grateful to see so many familiar faces, people I’ve known from when I lived in the District and did earlier activism there, and get to meet some new folks who are doing interesting work in LGBT literature. Read More…

The “Passive-Aggressive” Note Thing & Just How Problematic It Is

TRIGGER WARNING for conversations and content about rape culture and sexual violence and intimidation.

In the midst of the Thanksgiving gratitude Facebook posts, reminders that the holiday is an aggrandizement of genocide against Native Americans, and pictures of turkeys, a little story about airline travelers made the viralways on social media. It detailed the hostilities between a producer of The Bachelor and a private citizen in seat 7A as their flight, delayed, sat on the tarmac.

Elan Gale, the Hollywood producer, opened with a tweet that seemed humorous at first:

screen capture of Elan Gale tweet

It’s sarcastic and not particularly sensitive, but it goes to the frustrations and anxieties that many of us have when traveling in an airline system that hasn’t been passenger-focused in a long time. But thinking about it more carefully, there are only some people who can afford to travel by air. Some others of us either take the bus or the train, drive a shorter distance that doesn’t break our budget, or stay home. So already this is a conversation between relatively entitled people.  Read More…

Throat Afire

It never fails that when I need to be somewhere or do something especially important, I catch a virus. There was that time, after being unemployed for two years, that I was supposed to go to Census-taker training, but got Susanne’s stomach bug instead. I’ve given presentations with 100-degree fevers, and taken the SAT while the chicken pox was still scabbed all over my body. So nobody in my household was surprised when I finally caught Emile’s cold from last week, two days before flying out to LA for the Lambda Literary Foundation’s Emerging Writer’s Workshop.

At first it was just a tickle in my throat—maybe Wednesday afternoon or so. By Thursday night, in which I had go to my first board meeting as a new director for a former prisoner rehabilitation nonprofit, I was exhausted. It wasn’t as bad as that 2003 bout with mononucleosis (which kept me from driving to my sister’s house for Christmas that year, because timing is everything), but I felt weak and feverish. My throat emanated pain and itchiness. The back of my sinus cavity cranked up its production of disgustingness. I clammed my way through the meeting and then made conversation with some impromptu house guests who were spending the night with us. Please, I begged the anonymous virus, get out of here in the next 24 hours. I’ve got a big trip, okay? Read More…

Some Enchanted Plane Ride

DSC_0011I have a shortish bucket list of places to visit in my lifetime, because I’ve read about different corners of the globe and I’ve always had a hankering for seeing them up close. Patagonia. Paris. Senegal. Lebanon. Hawaii. The trick is, getting there takes some doing. I imagine that for millennia, most people stayed pretty much where they started, with some nomadic peoples making long treks, or some specific folks earning a reputation for exploration and such. Perhaps there’s a wisdom in nesting, because with all of our technological prowess and transportation advancement, venturing from Point A to Point B is still a total pain in the keister.

Ever since we moved to Walla Walla, one of our quieter gripes has been that it takes 2-3 flights and 12 hours or more to get to the East Coast, usually at an expense of $500+ per traveler. At some point Susanne and I toyed with the idea of going to Hawaii instead of making multiple trips home for the holidays. Once we assessed that the prices really were similar, coming here shifted from a tongue-in-cheek thought experiment to a plan. And because we’ve struggled with getting in and out of Eastern Washington so many times now, seeing a three-legged airplane journey didn’t feel like a big deal. What price to pay for paradise, we asked ourselves.

Turns out, a 6-hour flight is no small feat for a toddler. The entire ride, we listened to wailing like I’ve never heard come out of any human being, much less a small child. Thank goodness it wasn’t Emile having the extended purple scream. Sure, he fussed, asking for “down,” and saying “all done” with the jaunt just 20 minutes after takeoff. But he held it together for the most part. Getting to the big island, Emile notched his 12th, 13th, and 14th flights in his new existence. A couple of bouts with turbulence notwithstanding, Hawaii Airlines gave us a smooth ride and a strange meal box. But hey, they have a meal box. It was a step up from the pretzel bag from Delta, and 10 light years better from the three sips of flat cold soda that they serve on United. (I think we all know I will never again breathe a friendly word about United Airlines.) Read More…

To Jeff Smisek, CEO of United Airlines

TO: Jeff Smisek, CEO United Airlines

FROM: Everett Maroon, Mileage Plus Member XXXXXXX

DATE: 9/4/2012

RE: Series of poor service incidents from UA Staff

Please let me begin by saying that I appreciate the challenges present for commercial air carriers in the United States today. Your recent merger announcement with Continental is of course predicated in part on finding efficiencies in both business models and improving the destinations and flight coverage for passengers overall. I can’t imagine what pressure your business must be under regarding the logisitics of such a large merger of corporate climates, staff, benefits packages, strategies for future development, and heck, the terrible cost of jet fuel these days.

Because of these oft-reported limitations and tensions, I have been willing to put up with a certain level and number of inconveniences as a frequent traveler–the disappearance of the in-flight meal (they weren’t very good anyway), and later, of the small bag of pretzels, the addition of checked bag fees, and the changing, increasingly invasive security process, which I understand is not under the control of the airlines. Along with these shifts I’ve seen consequences for how I travel–I head to the airport much earlier than before, I plan for snacks ahead of time, I bring only certain bags that are within weight limits or will fit in such-and-such an overhead compartment. I have rejiggered my traveling strategy because now I have a 1-year-old child, and I acknowledge that my customer experience expectations have evolved because of all of these changes from the airlines, the world we live in, and my personal life. Read More…

Spa Day in Radium

Radium Hot Springs, BC, with mountain in backgroundSo let’s say I went on vacation and while looking forward to a relaxing time in a hot springs pool, I injured myself in three different ways, thus negating the healing effects of 105-degree water and instead identifying new effects of walking with a limp. But let’s also postulate that in order to combat said accident-proneness, I agreed to get a Swedish massage. Well, that would probably be memorable, too.

It really started with the couches at the condo rental, up in Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia. Maybe they were from the dreaded IKEA store, where furniture looks great until it leaves the Swede-designed showroom. The middle supports in the loveseats that marked the boundary of the living room area were three inches lower than the parts of the cushions nearest the armrests. In other words, there was no way to sit on the sofas and keep one’s hips even. We took to lying across the furniture at odd angles, vainly searching for comfort. By the end of the first day a small spot next to the small of my back began radiating pain outward, an epicenter of activity that foretold of destruction, soon to follow. I noticed I had begun walking with a hitch as the muscles nearby had held some sort of summit regarding what to do, and had agreed to stiffen up in response to the sore area. I was on my way to a full blown back ache. Read More…

Tips for Traveling Based Solely on My Last Experience

flight attendants wavingThis is my second head cold in a month, so I’ve dipped into our hard-to-acquire stash of Sudafed, which I know from Breaking Bad is the item purchased by “smurfs” to make crystal meth. Thank you, AMC, for expanding my culture reference set. Based on when my left tonsil puffed up like a blowfish, I figure I was exposed to whatever virus this is on one of the three plane rides over to the East Coast. It could have been the 3-year-old two rows behind me who practiced his raspberries for 45 minutes. Or the lanky guy who slept next to me for 4 hours and insisted on sticking his feet under the seat in front of me (I thought I was the fat space hog). Maybe a flight attendant passed it to me along with my half-ounce of cracker party mix, who knows? But if I could relive the experience that day, I would do the following, and I’ll note right here that I did know these things before May 17, 2012.

1. Bring hand sanitizer with you. You may not have time to wash up in the airport rest room between flights, and you’ll probably need it more frequently than every three hours, especially if it’s during flu season. You may even be tempted to splash some on your neck, like cologne. This is not necessarily a bad idea. Read More…

By Hook or by Crook: Traveling with Baby

Susanne and I like to think we are seasoned travelers, people who move around continents with ease and without flinching. I know before I get to the security line how many bins I’ll need for my stuff. I know which planes have a great bulkhead row and which will cause me to wrap my legs around me like an experiment in human origami. Southwest trains their employees to present all information as a jolly delight, so I’ve learned to cut through the tone to get to the actual substance. Delta, after its merger with Northwest, has a lot of sullen, underappreciated staff at the till, so I make sure to smile when I talk to them and then I get slightly better service. I’m a gate-checking madman, avoidant of baggage fees, and I most recently am grieving the loss of the tiny bag of pretzels, because it seems even that microscopic luxury of flying has now vanished.

When people told me that everything would change once the baby arrived, they failed to bring up air  travel. Not a single person in the 8,374 instances of “Your life is going to change, you know,” that I heard before Emile’s birth finished the sentiment with “especially when you try to get on a plane.” I recognized that life would shift, but I didn’t think about flying. Read More…

Boom in the Night

Quantas airplane in flightLet it be known that I fly a lot, especially now that I’ve moved to this dusty corner of the country. It just isn’t possible to drive everywhere I want to go, certainly not with $4.00 gas staring me in the face at the station. Most of my trips originate not at the lonely Walla Walla airport, which hosts a few flights a day to and from Seattle, and which will bump up the fare anywhere between $400 to $1,000. So I trek out to the Tri-Cities, an hour away, and go from there. It’s a Planes & Automobiles adventure every time. Read More…


Vegas VicIt’s hard to land in Las Vegas without at least a few preconceived notions about the people here—degenerate gamblers, greedy casino owners, exhausted showgirls and the like—images conjured up from so many Hollywood flicks, tell-all books, and mafioso lore. I’m sure Sin City lives down to its seedy reputation on a regular basis, but there is another side to the place that doesn’t get much attention, probably because it’s not as dramatic.

There are actually a lot of hard-working people here. Read More…

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