Monthly Archives: May 2011

Straight Guy Lesson #17- Worldwide Good Times

If you’re a new hire flight attendant you’re going to have to work all major holidays.  Even if you’ve been flying for several years, you’re going to have to work on them. Just get used to that fact right now. Tell your family to schedule Christmas a few days before or after.

Sometimes it’s not that bad though.  Some hotels really go all out to give crew members a good time on important days.  The New Year’s Eve party at our layover hotel in London has become legendary.  July 4th is a pretty big deal there as well and they don’t even celebrate the damn holiday.  In fact they’re helping us celebrate the fact that we don’t belong to them anymore.  Hmmm, maybe they’re happy about that?

I don’t mind working some holidays because I know I’m going to have a good time.  That got me thinking about certain dates I like to be in other foreign cities throughout the year.  Here is a list of events and festivals to shoot for in all twelve months.  I threw a few American ones in there too for good measure.

January

  1. Chinese New Year in any city in China though a watered down version can be experienced in many large cities world-wide.
  2. Australia Day in any major city in Australia.  As if the Aussies needed an excuse to go crazy and drink a lot of beer. Lots of great beach parties.
  3. Republic Day in India.  Why not?
  4. Big Day Out music festivals in Adelaide, Sydney, Perth, Gold Coast, and Melbourne
  5. The featured weekend of Camel Wrestling in Selcuk, Turkey.  Haven’t done it/seen it, but apparently the best matches are in January.

February

  1. Mardi Gras or Carnival parties in New Orleans, Trinidad, Rio, or Venice.  Try them all!
  2. The Naked Festival in Saidai-Ji, Japan though it’s more loin clothes than naked people
  3. Tango Festival in Buenos Aires.  Nearly 100 free shows and concerts and the perfect place to be in late February/early March
  4. Late February- early March is the ten-day Rondy celebration of Alaskan life in Anchorage.  Dog-sled races, human-sled races, elk hot dogs, frost bite foot races, snow ball fights, mobile outhouse races, and more fur than you can possibly imagine.  PETA hasn’t heard about this one yet I guess.  Just check out the website athttp://www.furrondy.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=207:lets-rondy1&catid=80:rondy-rokfeature

March

  1. St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin.  do it.  DO IT!!!
  2. SXSW Music or Film Festivals in Austin, Texas.  Lots of free events and the atmosphere spreads over the entire city.
  3. March Madness in Las Vegas.  Gambling at its finest and most tragic.
  4. Holi or Doul Jatra Hindu celebrations of color in India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. You get bonfires as well adults throwing colored powder and water all over each other.

April

  1. Queens Day in Amsterdam.  must see.  Must See.  MUST SEE!  Come early, be loud, stay late, wear orange.
  2. Hana Matsuri (flower festival) in Toei, Japan .  The highlight is the Dance of the Demon
  3. Cherry Blossoms in Japan.  If you can’t go to Japan, check out the Brooklyn Botanical gardens.
  4. Coachella Music Festival in southern California, still obscure enough to be respected, but go soon.

May

  1. Indianapolis 500 weekend in Indy.  Very underrated place to spend Memorial Day.
  2. Life Fest in Dublin.  Techno heaven and rated one of the Top Ten festivals in all of Europe.
  3. Cinco de Mayo in Mexico or anywhere with Mexicans.
  4. The International Clown Festival. Every year clowns from throughout the world congregate in Denmark for Svendborg’s International Clown Festival. I’ve got to see this before I die!
  5. Kentucky Derby.  Go all out, get yourself an outrageous hat and enjoy those mint juleps.

June

  1. Gotta see Wimbledon in London.  For cheap tickets wait in the long queue and get the afternoon pass.  Have some strawberries and cream.
  2. Portugal Day celebrations all over the country.  Off the hizzy.
  3. Bonaroo music festival in Tennessee.  There’s something there for everyone.
  4. Cheese rolling in Gloucestershire, England.  Again, why not?

July

  1. Get in Paris for the last leg of the Tour de France. I’ve never done it but I’ve been trying for years.
  2. Bastille Day- anywhere in France.  Especially fun right after the French win the World Cup but that probably won’t happen again in our lifetime.
  3. Roskilde Music Festival in Denmark.  there aren’t many times when it’s pleasant to be outside in Denmark, but this is surely one of them.
  4. Running of the Bulls AND Running of the Nudes in Pamplona, Spain.  Yeah, PETA has a protest that involves naked Spaniards.
  5. And of course any layover in the USA will be fun for July 4th

August

  1. Reading or Leeds music festival in England, though it’ll make you feel old
  2. Pukkelpop music festival in Belgium.  see note above about Reading/Leeds
  3. Fringe Arts Festival in Edinburgh.  Often duplicated, never replicated
  4. La Tomatina tomato festival in Bunol, Spain.  You’ve seen videos from this I promise. It’s kinda like a wet t-shirt contest but with tomatoes instead of buckets of water, and it’s co-ed.
  5. The Highland Games in Argyle, Scotland.  Where men are men.

September

  1. Burning Man in northern Nevada.  It now costs you over $200 to get in, but worth every penny.
  2. Oktoberfest in Bavaria, Germany.  The grandaddy of them all. Try to squeeze in the festival celebrating the onion in Griesheim as well.

October

  1. Anniversary of the “No!”  Greeks commemorate Prime Minister Metaxas’ rejection of the ultimatum made by Italian dictator Mussolini.  Celebrations all over Greece.
  2. Though not solely an American holiday, it may as well be.  Halloween in any city, town, village in the United States is a great night out.  The warmer the weather, the skimpier the costumes!

November

  1. El Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead in Mexico.  Grab your sugar skulls and Catrina dolls and suddenly realize Tim Burton isn’t as creative as you once thought.
  2. Monkey Worshipping Festival in Thailand.  I tried to have an NYC event in the Bronx Zoo for those who couldn’t make it all the way to Thailand but it wasn’t the same.

December

  1. Dickensian Christmas in Rochester, England.  Get your Oliver Twist on.
  2. These aren’t just in December but my list for this month was short so I’ll mention the Full Moon Parties in Thailand here.

Being able to work trips to different parts of the world and experience events like these and get paid at the same time is what it’s all about.  Seeing Japanese men in diapers might not be the best way to spend your day but it’s a pretty fun thing to do on the clock.  Think of what you’re usually doing during the work day, isn’t watching men roll wheels of cheese down a hill sound like more fun?

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Straight Guy Lesson #16- How to Dine on Layovers

Thank You to DinnersFromHell.com for featuring this entry on your website.

It was my first Paris layover and since I don’t speak a lick of French I decided to stick with my crew.  Usually I like to venture out on my own in a new city, but I knew dinner was going to be a massive problem if left to my own devises.

In addition to being a vegetarian, I’m by far the pickiest eater I know and I could see myself accidentally ordering all kinds of horrible things without outside guidance.  Even the most popular items on the menu could be something disgusting and I wouldn’t even realize it.

For some reason I’m incredibly shy about trying to order food in strange countries.  I’ve heard horror stories about Parisians giving major attitude and scorn to Americans who don’t at least try to speak the language.  I’d love to try but I just can’t.  I really don’t know the language whatsoever.  That bluff would be a miserable fail.

The pilots and five of the other flight attendants (including our French speaker from the flight) agree to meet under the Eiffel Tower at 8pm.  I spend most of the day running around with my camera, trying to capture as much as of the city as I could on film in the hours given.  I made sure I was at the Eiffel Tower at 8pm though.  In fact, I was there at 7:00, just in time to get yelled at in French for stepping on some grass where apparently there’s a “Keep Off Grass” sign.

We find an Italian place in a not-so-touristy area just across the Seine.  If I’d been smart enough to think of Italian food I wouldn’t need to be with the crew, I can read the names of Italian dishes no problem.  Oh well, I’m here now so let’s roll with it.

I’m a pretty light eater and I like to save money when I go out.  I think it’s ridiculous to spend 12 Euro on a single glass of wine, especially if you’re just going to have the one glass and not catch a buzz.  What’s the point?  I don’t do appetizers or salad unless that’s going to be my entire meal.  I never take dessert or an after-dinner drink.  All of that is just a waste of money for me.  I can have some drinks at a bar before dinner for much cheaper.  I can eat an ice cream from a street vendor after we leave the restaurant at a fraction of the cost.

So the crew orders and I watch it happen.  A couple of people want this appetizer and a couple more want this other one.  It’s decided that the table will order three apps and everyone will just share them.  I don’t object.  I let it happen.

I’m drinking soda but everyone else gets wine with sparkling water on the side.  Again, it’s decided that three bottles of each is good for everyone to share.  I think that’s a smart decision on their part and fail to recognize how and why I’m being a complete idiot.

I have one basic pasta dish while everyone else gets some soup, salad, antipasti, and second course.  I marvel at the appetites these people have, even the skinny girls and waif thin gay boys I’m flying with.  The wine runs dry and the flight attendants order more.  I wonder if I’m getting paid the same amount as they are, the tab is really adding up in a hurry!

If I knew the pilots were going to be paying for the meal I might partake in some of the extras but I know that’s not going to happen.  There are two gay boys with us and the pilots very rarely treat guys to dinner, especially the gay ones.  I’m not willing to bank on that possibility that my dinner will be free.  I order sensibly and thriftily.

Everyone finishes and they ask us if we want desserts, cordials, or coffee.  All three are ordered.  I think about it but look at the prices and decide against it.  I can get a latte for a third that price at the coffee shop just around the corner from the hotel.  Again, I think I’m being so responsible and smart.  I’m about to see the error of my ways.

That moment arrives soon enough when the bill comes.  It never occurred to me that paying for what you ordered wouldn’t be an option.  My crew, now wasted on wine and Sambuca, insist that if we just divide by eight then we’ll be set.  Everyone is okay with that.  It’s at that point that I realize why the flight attendants were ordering more than the pilots.

They knew this was going to happen.  If the pilots are going to order all these extras and then make the crew split the bill, the only way to come out ahead is to top them and order more yourself.  Well played flight attendants, well played.

There’s nothing I could do but pull out sixty Euros and think about the fifteen Euros worth of Coke and penne alla arrabiata I had.  I grab the last bottle of wine still standing and empty it into my pristine, virginal glass.  If I’m paying for this I may as well get as much out of it as I can.  I grab a fork and shovel the rest of the Tiramisu into my mouth.  Lesson learned, but at a price.

Now I avoid eating with the crews as much as I can, at least in that large of a group.  Smaller groups will let you get away with paying for what you order but never a group of eight.  Never after that much alcohol.  The only way to “win” is to order the appetizer, and the soup, and the salad, and the wine, and the third bottle, and the fifth bottle, and the dessert with Cognac, and anything else you could possible want.  Hell, get a souvenir shirt and hat thrown on the tab too while you’re at it! As long as you’re eating and drinking more than everyone else, you come out ahead since the bill is getting split evenly.  If you don’t play the game like that, it’s going to be a dinner from hell.