Tag Archives: traveling

Delta, Delta, Delta

It is a grave disservice to a human being, this whole daylight savings time, especially since this particular human does not work in agriculture, and deprived of an hour’s sleep, has considerable trouble envisioning how the indirect benefit of farmers’ labor applies to him. But the usual strain of shifting forward one hour has just been exacerbated by the supreme offense of the delayed flight/missed connection combination that only modern air travel affords on a regular basis. It’s one thing to be in a later time zone for 78 minutes during an afternoon layover; it is an entirely different thing to have to wake up at what feels like 4:15AM to catch a final leg home. And when one has not planned for that extra pair of fresh underwear. Such injustice in the developed world. Read More…

California Cupcakes

In the middle of vacation, but here are some photos of the fun we’re having. . . and cupcakes.

Yummy Cupcakes from LA

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Moose in the City

In all of the traveling I’ve done since moving to the Pacific Northwest—a journey through Glacier National Park, driving through the Rockies and Bighorn National Forest more than once, exploring Yellowstone, walking through the unbelievably tall mountains in Alaska—I have not seen a single moose. I’ve even driven up next to a lumbering bison, which by the way, didn’t smell all that good, but which was still amazing. I’ve stood 50 yards away from a brown bear lolling around on the soft carpet of moss. Black bears make my list of eyewitnessed nature, too, as I’ve taken in a newly independent cub feasting on fresh salmon in a glacier-fed river as close to the Arctic Circle as I’ve ever come. Yes, I really want to explore the Yukon now. Read More…

Trajectories of Death

Just call the iPad the gift that keeps on giving…for a price. My latest little obsession is Angry Birds, a deceptively simple game that features a slingshot and birds on one side, and evil green pigs on the other. I played this game for the entire first leg of my flights to Arkansas, where I am now, baking cookies for the holidays with my mother. (Keep your jokes to yourselves.) It all becomes about aspect and pitch and when to time that explosion, as my brain decided, delirious with giddiness at the comical nature of the app. But the game was fortunate because I’m sure I avoided a painful conversation with the man in the middle seat, who had a terrible case of halitosis. Life Note #29: Always travel with mints, not always for oneself. Read More…

Oxygen thrives in the rainforest

I’d heard, along with the other people who live in the U.S., about the influx of whole-body scanners to our airports. More than one’s average bear, those of transgender heritage disdain these things because well, it goes against our whole mantra of “I’m not just what I am in my pants/skirt.” In this narrow chamber, we are. Thinking about these things abstractly and then coming face to face with one, as I did last Wednesday, I discovered, are two different animals. The disgust after reading a newspaper article pales in comparison to stepping into one of these scanners. Read More…

I’ve got to concentrate, concentrate, concentrate

We’re leaving on a jet plane for Denver in a few hours, and I’m excited in part because Denver is a city I’ve only seen once, a long time ago, but also because I love writing from hotel rooms. Nice TV on in the background, bed at easy access for naps or when I need to ruminate, broad desk and lovely view of somewhere else for quality pondering time. I can get some take out and type away over lunch. There’s something appealing to my creative side about writing from Somewhere Else, which is what we had in mind when we made the short-term move to Seattle. So a trip out of town is now a kind of hop to Somewhere Else’s Somewhere Else. And I quite enjoy that. Read More…

Cookies from hell

First, a brief round up of my first writer’s conference:

  • One request for a partial and one request for my book proposal, both for the memoir
  • One request for a partial of my science fiction satire
  • Several new writer contacts—mostly sci fi and fantasy folks, who duh, are the best
  • One silly picture of myself shown on a screen in front of everyone
  • Many, many fantastic conversations about writing and creating
  • At least half a dozen drinks at the bar—they had good hefeweisen, for which I am always a sucker
  • Two great dinners in Seattle—Ethiopian and sushi whore in West Seattle
  • Two ridiculous airline experiences

I’d grumbled and snarked about the demise of airline service here and over on I Fry Mine in Butter, and apparently the universe or something took notice, because wow, getting back to Detroit from Seattle was a fiasco.

The initial flight out of Seattle, a red-eye at 1AM was bad enough—taking a red-eye, I knew, would throw off my internal clock, because it has every time before—but I also had a connecting flight out of Memphis. I’d been okay with this at booking because I had a nonstop to Seattle for my outbound flight, and I’m not choosy in this brave new world of airline service. Choosy is something I reserve for potato chip flavors at the Target Superstore.

Memphis’ airport has seen better, happier, less stinky days. I had to really eyeball which chair I sat in as some had lost a considerable percentage of their stuffing to some other quadrant of the facility. I figure there’s a room in the basement somewhere with bags of chair fluff. I just need to sort out why. I made my way to a Starbucks and procured a mocha and a cheese danish because I was pretending it was breakfast time. It was, in fact, 7:20AM local time, but my stomach didn’t know that, so I gave it some cues. Here, stomach, coffee. Here, stomach, danish!

Busying myself in my ebook—Patricia Cornwell’s latest, and she sounds like a cranky old lady writer these days—I did not initially notice that the monitor displaying my departure time had changed. 9:45 quietly became 10:20. At some point I lifted my head, probably because I saw movement on my horizon, triggering the lizard portion of my brain to make sure there weren’t any predators on the savanna. Fortunately, there weren’t, but I did see the slippage in my takeoff time. I called my in-law’s house and left a message alerting them to the delay, and went back to my book. I wasn’t too concerned about a small delay, but I really needed to figure out who was after Kay Scarpetta.

At the next gate, a flight to Minneapolis, people starting piling up. I could tell it was a big and full plane. Then the steward made a strange announcement:

“So folks, we’re going to have  a delay here as we have a mechanical issue with this flight. We need a really big, strong spring for the tail rudder. I’m sure you remember that flight that crashed a few years ago because of the tail. So we take these things seriously. Unfortunately the part needs to be flown into Memphis here. We’ll get you all moving as soon as we can. You can scan your boarding passes over here to receive a $6 breakfast voucher from Delta for any food vendor here in the airport.”

Did someone just say flight and crash in the same sentence? Did someone from an airline just say flight and crash? That’s like yelling “bomb!” in the security line!

I looked at the monitor for the flight. Originally scheduled: 8AM. Now expected: 4PM. I noticed as a wave of uneasy crashed over me and my ebook.

Well, something was off with my flight, too. We still weren’t boarding, even though I heard one employee tell another customer that we’d leave by 10:10. My phone buzzed with a text from Susanne: Delta Web site says you’re not due to depart until 11.

Those lying bastards. Now I was annoyed, and I had a good amount of caffeine from my mocha to fuel my anger. I asked the woman at the counter how we were leaving at 10:20 if it was 10AM and we had no plane at the gate? She gave me an uneven frown, as if both halves of her brain were in conflict: this guy is pissing me off, must be nice to customers. I felt badly for causing her distress. I blamed my Starbucks mocha.

Around 11 we actually got on the plane, and then the story takes a downturn. I was seated next to the most talkative, no boundaries, yammery guy I’ve ever had the fortune to sit next to. He just wanted to know my whole life story, this guy. It was one of those times when I considered revealing The Trans just to see if it could shut down any more conversation, but I feared he would just explode with 20,000 questions I didn’t feel like answering. For those of the non-trans status, questions no transgender person wants to answer include the following:

  • What was your name before?
  • What’s it like to see things from the other side?
  • Did you get surgery?
  • How did your family deal with it?
  • Quick, let’s go to the rest room so I can see your winky!

Okay, that last one isn’t a question, though it is a kind of request, I suppose. And yes, that last one has been asked of me. See, this is why my memoir needs to find an agent and a publisher, because the world needs to know that people make these crazy remarks! Notice how I went from memoir to publisher to world? That was nice, right?

Mr. Never Stop Talking rattled on for so long that I hardly noticed we’d been on the tarmac for a while, but sure enough, they hadn’t closed the boarding door and it was 11:30. Still on plane, at gate, I texted Susanne, because her drive to the airport and this flight took about the same time. I didn’t want her hanging out at the airport if I was delayed. Which, okay, I was already significantly delayed. I’d originally been scheduled to land at 12:15.

Delta Web site says you’re not departing until 12:30, she texted back. And here the pilot had just announced we’d be delayed another 5 minutes. Five minutes my ass. Five minutes in sea tortoise time. The stewards came down the aisle with glasses of water for us. Thanks, Delta.

Twelve-thirty came and went. We were having some kind of issue with the fuel line to the plane. Terrific. One rudderless crashing wonder to Minneapolis, and one exploding bombshell to Detroit. How’s that merger working out for you, Northwest?

They asked us to open up our air vents and close our windows to keep it cool inside. Mr. Talky Talk went on about people getting stranded on the tarmac for four hours just the day before. Sheesh, Mr. Never Shuts Up was just one happy story after another.

At some time after 1, way way way later that 9:45AM, we took off with the fuel line attached. Just kidding. We took of all fixed up, and I was confident that Susanne knew exactly when to leave for Detroit.

In the air they did the usual beverage service, only this time they gave us the can of soda and not just the plastic cup. I asked for the accompanying cookies.

“Oh, we’re out of cookies.” Three hours at the gate and nobody could stock the cookies?

“Of course you are.”

“Just for that,” he said, “I’m going to find you some cookies.”

“Great,” I said. I presumed this meant he’d find some crumbly bits ground into the carpet from the last 3-year-old’s temper tantrum and press them into my palm with a smile. But 20 minutes later, he handed me a package of the now-infamous Biscoff.

“Lucky you,” said the woman across the aisle from me, who’d been reading at a copy of Laura Bush’s memoir for the last hour.

“I can share,” I said, breaking one cookie in half. I handed her one piece and Motormouth to My Left the other half.

“Wow, it’s kind of cinnamony,” he said, still chewing. “You think that’s cinnamon in there?”

“Yup,” I said.

“That is a damn good cookie.”

“It’s the best thing about Delta,” I said, and I heard the steward sniff, displeased. “After their amazing staff, of course.”

“Of course,” said the steward.

I slept for four hours as soon as I got back home. My stomach is still not sure what the hell time it is.

Fly the Not Free Skies

Airplane movie stillThis was originally posted over at I Fry Mine in Butter.

Once upon a time flying was fun. Planes seemed shiny and glamorous, travelers dressed up, and nobody measured carryon bags with scales. Totally unthinkable were long lines at security and computers sniffing for explosive residue. Mottos like “fly the friendly skies” are long long gone.

It isn’t that I miss airline food, food being a rather broad category when it comes to what was served on airlines. I was one of those folks who chose to bring on his own meals, much like Hannibal lecture, minus the fried human brains. But at least one received a full can of soda. Not anymore. Now I get a plastic cup of semi-fizzy liquid and a piece of the iceberg that sank Titanic.

This is the first flight I’ve been on to offer wifi,and no sooner do 67 stickers adorn the inside and outside of the plane—so the birds can use it, I guess—than they’re charging for it, $13 a flight. That seems a little triskaidekaphilic to me. Why thumb your nose at Lady Luck, airlines?

So it’s one more luxury I won’t be getting, like pay per view on DirecTV or $10 beer in flight. But don’t call it for my convenience, that’s just disingenuous. If it were really for my convenience it would be free or $1. There are 30 rows of seats on this flight; $13 from each of us on multiple flights a day more than buys the modem in what, the first month? I know not everyone will want the service, but surely the price point was set to earn profit.

eastern airline wingsI remember as a kid getting to see the cockpit during flight and I completely understand why that’s not possible anymore. Yet can’t we give kids those stupid plastic wing pins? Those were cool. Kids don’t get crap these days, and it’s sad. Yes, I know times are tough for the airlines. We all cram our bags into the overhead compartments rather than shell out an extra $50 round trip for checking them. And then the air stewards get on the PA system and tell us there’s not enough room in the overheads so we need to be good traveling neighbors and put our smaller carryons under the seat in front of us. I’ve even had a steward hand me my briefcase after I’ve checked my suitcase, and that really got under my skin. If I’ve paid $25 to check the suitcase, I feel like I just paid for leg room, so don’t tell me to cram anything under the seat in front of me.

Also, I don’t get that money back when they lose my bags, which has happened more than a couple of times. It just can’t be that saving 3 ounces of soda per traveler is more important than customers feeling they’re not getting ripped off. I know, I know, I should be happy that I’m flying through the air on a bunch of metal and plastic. I think I just want to feel like I’m being treated a few rungs above chattel.

And yet, there’s that small cup of soda in front of me. I wonder how long I can make it last on this four and a half hour flight.

Oh my God, I think I’ve become a grumpy old man.

Had me a blast

us with mary tyler mooreSo we’ve sketched out and thought about and worked our way through to some summer plans, and wireless connectivity what it is, will be relaying our journey on this very blog, in what will wind up being a reverse travelogue of our trip in August 2008. Once June rolls around I will also be guest blogging for Bitch magazine, so I will have to get a bit creative in the early part of the month on ways to get my posts published. But as far as trans/plant/portation goes, here is a preview of our trip back east:

Hot springs in Idaho—non-sulfur pools like the one we’ve been to in Radium, British Columbia

Grand Teton National Park—Susanne revealed to me that “tetons” is from the breast-like mountain silhouette. Yeah, she had to go make it dirty.

Yellowstone National Park—we’re aiming to reach this park on my actual 40th birthday, because I can think of nothing as wonderful as standing next to “Old Faithful” when I enter my 41st year.

The Badlands of South Dakota—I have no expectations, but I am told it will be breathtaking, so I’ll bring some extra air with me.

Mt. Rushmore and the Corn Palace—I feel an itch to write this blog post very badly, juxtaposing the majestic grandeur of the presidents with . . . corn.

Minneapolis/St. Paul—no trip cross-continent would be complete without at least a short visit to the land of the Fargo Accent.

I think it may be fun to make some kind of flip book like I’ve seen for little kids. It could combine the destination, the beautiful feature of the destination, and how I could wound or maim myself. Roughing out the idea a little, here are some examples:

Everett got splinters | taking pictures of trees | in the Grand Tetons

Everett got sunburned | looking at the sculpture garden | in Minneapolis

Everett was bitten by a bear | hiking the stunning cliffs | of the Badlands

Mixing and matching only makes it more fun! I see a children’s book here, really.

After all of this traveling, we will land in DC, just in time for the DC Pride weekend, which will, it nearly goes without saying, be completely unlike Walla Walla in tone and demographic. And just watch, I’ll probably get overwhelmed from so many people. The desert’s always greener, or something.

Holiday trains, planes, and automobiles

Detroit Metro AirportThe lack of proximity between purchasing airline tickets and actually getting onto an airplane has not served us well this year. Susanne, in early October, had her face buried in her laptop screen. “What do you think about this flight,” she asked, her eyes mere inches from the glowing pixels, “it’s a really good price.”

“How good,” I asked, leaning over. “Oh, that is good.”

“But it’s a red eye,” she said.

“But the price,” I said.

Abstractly, I understood that it was a middle-of-the-night flight. I do, after all, have a very successful track record with surviving the middle of the night, even if I’m usually asleep for it.

“It’s three legs,” she said, sounding less confident.

I responded by ignoring her fears. “It’s always at least two, hon,” I said, a little too cheerfully. She should have understood right then that I was just blinded by my thriftiness and rethought our approach. But perhaps Susanne was seeing little stars of savings, too.

We sent our credit card numbers through the information superhighway and were rewarded with an email confirming we had just purchased our way to visiting friends and family for the holidays. And then went about our daily routine, forgetting all about it.

And then we were driving, in late December, to the airport. We had an 8 o’clock fight to Seattle, a multi-hour layover, and then a midnight flight to Minneapolis, followed by another couple of hours in that airport, and then a morning flight to Detroit.

What a horrible itinerary! Who had done this to us?

We had. We had done this to ourselves.

We drove by the bad broccoli plant, which for its part sent us an intense putrid odor as a parting shot for departing Walla Walla. Every time we’ve left before, the city has done some kind of stick-its-tendrils-into-us to slow us down. What would it be this time, I wondered, trying not to breathe as I drove past the paper mill. It just loved us so much it wanted to stay in our nostrils.

On the first plane, the flight attendant told us happily that we’d be making a stop in Yakima on our way to Seattle. This meant we were splitting the trip into two 25-minute segments. Never going about 15,000 feet, we stopped like a bus at the Yakima airport and five people joined our flight. About ten minutes away from Seattle, the worst stench of gastrointestinal distress invaded my olfactory nerves. I looked at Susanne and mouthed, “was that you?”

She shook her head no emphatically. We tried to breathe as little as we could, having just practiced this outside the paper mill. The flight attendant empathized with us, as she was also stuck at the very back of the plane with us and the killer fart. As we rolled into the gate, they put two staircases up to the fuselage, and the flight attendant, knowing our plight, told us we could just take the one in the back, two feet behind our seats. We walked the length of the terminal toward our next gate. Having cleared our heads, our stomachs started rumbling, and we decided to get dinner.

The waiter asked what we wanted. As we were in a tap house and pub, we each ordered a wheat beer. He plunked them down on the table, announcing last call.

“When do you close,” I asked.

“In 30 minutes,” he said.

We drank our beers and ate our greasy food quickly, rushing off to the shuttle train to our next terminal and departure gate. I could feel the reuben sloshing around in my tipsy stomach, but we had some time to relax before the red eye. The Seattle airport has free wifi, which seems nice until one notices that it has next to no power outlets. What teases. We wandered around looking for a free outlet, to no avail. And the people who had already juiced up weren’t offering to unplug, even for a little while. This made me wonder if:

1. everyone had terrible laptop batteries that wouldn’t hold a charge

2. they hated Christmas and were hogging the electricity just to be nasty

3. they were inattentive, oblivious Northwesterners

So we booted up my laptop, sharing it between us and hoping to model good behavior for all of the manners-impaired strangers in the terminal. Somehow I think it didn’t make any difference.

We piled on to the red eye, hoping for a smooth enough, unoffensively smelling enough flight that we could catch some sleep before getting into the Twin Cities. Susanne conked out on my shoulder quickly, but I have trouble staying asleep while sitting up, so I watched the people around me slumber instead, some snoring, some with their jaws hanging open while doing so. And I realized that it’s no wonder why people eat a good number of bugs over the years.

Landing after the red eye, we were somewhat dismayed to discover we still weren’t there yet.

Our next gate was a little ways down from a Caribou Coffee. A family of three each had a drink from there, and they looked so happy, like a live advertisement for the wonderful things coffee can do for you, too. Have an impressive blonde son and snappily dressed trophy wife! Enjoy endless energy and increase your income potential with our frozen vanilla frappuccinos!

“I’m going to get some coffee,” said Susanne, standing up. “Would you like anything?”

I stared at the happy people. Happy people. I wanted to go to there. I nodded at her.

“Okay, what would you like?”

My voice, exhausted, came out in a whisper.

“A frosty mcfrosterson,” I said.

“A what?”

I pointed at the 4-year-old toe head. “Mocha,” I squeaked.

“Is there anything else you want, like some caramel flavor or hazelnut?”

Why was she making this so difficult? I said frosty mcfrosterson! Just understand what I want! I’m perfectly clear!

That was what I thought. But what I said was:

“Mocha!”

“Okay,” she said, now talking to me as if I were only 4. “Do you want anything to eat?”

I shook my head no.

She came back a really long time later that equaled something like 7 minutes, and I sucked back my frozen mocha in a few gulps. The caffeine hit me like a Boxing Day tsunami. Maybe that’s exaggerating and trivializing. Okay, it hit me like really bad flatulence, except it was so good. And not odiferous in any way. I was suddenly, powerfully awake.

I typed things, I texted people. I was online and sending status updates to anyone who cared. In the very narrow band of things that could be remotely productive while sitting in an airport waiting to catch one’s third flight in 12 hours, I was a king of getting shit done.

Susanne seemed to be buzzing, too. She asked if she should get us a bagel and cream cheese. That sounded like a terrific idea! Sure! Get us 14 bagels!

She found some organic-pretends-to-be-French bakery and got us a hemp bagel. I had no idea people ate hemp. Wasn’t it reserved for scratchy rope and reusable shopping bags? Would we get high from eating this?

We did not get high, which was good, given that we were already loopy. But I did discover that hemp seeds can get caught pretty easily between one’s teeth. Good life experience to note, I guess.

Finally, at long last, we were on our last flight. Only two hours and forty-eight minutes to Detroit. The flight was uneventful.

Our bags were not on the belt. I lined up in a long queue for lost luggage, not confident that I could explain what had happened with any degree of clarity, or words, even. Probably I would just wave my arms a lot and point to my claim tag bar codes, and hope that would suffice for them. I was a raving mad man, a very tired raving mad man. So maybe I wasn’t raving. I was a raved, farted on, ear-drum deafened, sleep-deprived, over-caffeinated, hemp-eating mad man.

Three people before I reached the front of the line Susanne tapped me on the shoulder and told me she’d found her bag on one random luggage belt and mine on another. I trudged out to the car, brought thankfully by her cousin and husband, who came with the car as part of a package driving deal, and didn’t ask how our bags wound up on the opposite end of the baggage claim area. I didn’t care anymore.

We rode 90 minutes to Susanne’s parents’ house, had a cup of tea, and took a 3-hour nap. We had crossed 17 hours, three flights, four airports, one train, two commutes, one really bad cheese cutting incident, two bad meals, one hurried pint of hefeweisen, and three increasingly inarticulate conversations. We woke up at 5:30pm Eastern time, which felt like 2:30 to us, kind of, since I think I never actually saw the sun the whole day, and really, I didn’t even know what day it was anymore.

But hell, it only cost us $525 a ticket.

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