Tag Archives: dating

My First Uber Trick

images     I’m always looking for ways to supplement my income so that I don’t have to be away from home so much. I freelance photography jobs. I wrote a book. I made an app. I’ve even been a substitute teacher, but only for the tiny kids that are still afraid of adults and don’t know how to talk back.
When Uber became a thing, I was interested straight away. It sounded perfect until I read that drivers must have a four-door car and it must be newer than 2010. My crappy little Civic was two-door and a 2005. There went that idea. Plus I heard that Austin Uber drivers were getting busted by undercover cops posing as riders because technically Uber driving is illegal.
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They must have sorted that out with the taxi contingent because I started hearing about people using Uber all over the Austin area and no one had heard about drivers getting in trouble anymore. Sweet.

When I had enough money saved I got a new car, my first brand new car ever. I made sure it had four doors. I bought a fancy edition Toyota Rav 4 with all the bells and whistles. This is the first time in my life that I’ve owned a car where you can open and close the windows by pushing a button rather than cranking a crank.
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I started all the paperwork and background checks and within a week I was cleared to go. I watched a 20 minute long instructional video on how it works from the drivers’ perspective and I thought I had it down. Still though, I had already decided that my first fare would be my girlfriend since she’s an expert on the Uber thing from the riders’ side of it. I figure I could take her out to a nice dinner, pay for everything, then she could “hire” me to take her home. That way I can figure out the Uber app and get a perfect rating to my name in the process. It was a fool-proof plan.

Last night we put it into action. We weren’t really feeling a fancy dinner so we did Olive Garden instead. We got seated in a booth in the bar area by four screaming meth addicts, one of which was very pregnant. I wondered if any of them knew who the father was. The table on the other side of them demanded to be moved because of how rowdy they were. My girlfriend nearly went off on them but I begged her not too because one of the guys was showing the others how you can turn two Olive Garden steak knives and a breadstick into a makeshift double-edged sword. I found him to be the most normal of the four.
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That group finally finishes up and leaves in a Tasmanian devil whirl. The waiters apologize profusely about their behavior. Never in a million years would I think that those toothless rednecks would fail to be the weirdest thing about our night. I hit the button on the Uber app that says, “GO ONLINE.”

My girlfriend logs on and checks out the Uber car situation from her phone. There isn’t alot of activity in far North Austin at 11pm on a Tuesday night so we put the plan into action. She presses the button to request a ride and immediately my phone buzzes. I see the request and quickly accept the job. Pretty easy.

We walk out to the car and when we get in I try to tell the app that I’ve picked up my fare. It’s not giving me that option though. She checks her phone and notices that somehow my name isn’t listed as her driver, it’s someone else, and they’re one minute away. She quickly cancels the request as the poor soul pulls up.

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We quickly back out and leave the parking lot, trying to figure out how our plan fell apart. She requested a ride, my phone buzzed, I accepted the fare, and then what the hell? Obviously someone else accepted her request, but how could I as well? As we were heading home we realize that my phone is still saying I have a customer and that they’re seven minutes away, now eight.

Is it really possible that the second she requests a ride a stranger accepts at the exact moment a second person requests a ride and I accept? Well, yeah, I guess it is. That’s what we’re dealing with here. My instinct is to just cancel and go home because I need to be up at 6am but my girlfriend says I should probably go ahead and do it so I don’t get yelled at by the Uber people. So where is this joker anyways?

I turn on the GPS and start following the directions. It looks like we’re going to a part of town that’s nothing but warehouses. It says I’m a minute away and there isn’t a soul around. I’m hoping it’s all a big mistake, a glitch in the Matrix. Right on cue, I make the final turn and a well-lit building appears with a disheveled business guy sitting in the grass, waving me down. Welcome to Perfect Tens Strip Club.

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Before I even get to a stop he stands up and starts walking over. I guess this is the guy. He opens the door and climbs in. I ask him where we’re going and he says I should already know. Right, I guess I need to do something with the app. I tell it that I made the pick up and that we’re now en route to his house, which is 40 minutes away. The robotic lady starts giving us directions and immediately the guy tells me to ignore her because we need to go to Whataburger first.

I have no idea where the nearest Whataburger is so he gives me turn by turn directions, all the while playing on his phone with a bluetooth ear piece still in his ear. I wonder if he had that thing on during his lap dances. Probably so.
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I figured he’d want to just go through the drive-thru but he insisted on ordering from the counter. We park and he staggers toward the doors. I notice that when he gets his order it’s not in a brown paper bag, it’s a tray full of food, enough to feed a family. He sits down and starts unwrapping his burger as if he were defusing a bomb. Are you kidding me right now?
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It looks like he’s eating in slow motion. I’ve never seen a drunken meal go down so slowly. Things got worse when two high school girls in short shorts came in and ordered food as well. It took him ten minutes to remember that he had a burger in his hands and that he needed to be biting and chewing. In all fairness he did ask us if we wanted anything before he went in. If I had known he was going to take 32 minutes to eat, I would’ve taken him up on his offer. My midnight bedtime was never going to be achieved.

He finally finishes his feast, wipes his greasy fingers on his slacks, and heads back to the car, thanking us for waiting, but not before checking back on the high school girls one last time. I guess if he looked back and they were eyeing him then he’d ditch us and go with them. Since they had no idea he was ever there in the first place, much less left them, he climbed back into the back seat, looking a bit defeated. We notice he smells much better than before. The girlfriend thinks he put on cologne to impress the under-aged girls, but I think he put it on to cover up stripper sweat and other things on his lap before he gets home to his wife. We may never know.

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I’m not sure what the etiquette is here. Am I supposed to entertain him or just leave him alone? When I’m in a cab I just like to sit there in the backseat and do my own thing. But this isn’t a smelly cab, I’m letting this guy into my car, it’s personal and therefore a little more familiar. The obvious first question would be how is day is going but considering he’s drunk and I picked him up on the front lawn of a ghetto-ass strip club in the middle of nowhere, I already know the answer to that one.

The only time I’ve ever been in a Uber car as a passenger, I was sitting between two friends who were in the middle of a fight and they were screaming and cursing at each other like  Bobby and Whitney. That went on for 40 minutes. I spent the time making apologetic looks to the driver in the rear view mirror. That’s what I know about what goes on during an Uber ride.
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I decide not to say anything to him. Or to my girlfriend. I didn’t want him to feel like he was intruding on our evening, which he certainly was. We follow the directions down south and of course there’s road construction everywhere and his exit doesn’t exist. This first ride could not be going any worse.

He directs me to another road and the GPS Navigator takes it from there. We go way south and then start heading west into the hills. After 20 minutes we’re in the middle of nowhere, heading to either the fancy houses overlooking the lake, or to a kill room he has hidden in the woods. I thought fancy house, but the look on my girlfriend’s face said she thought the latter. At least we’d be dying together. She began sending out a myriad of texts to friends and family to let them know what was going on in case this was our death cab. She would later say that she had seen it all in her mind and begged him to kill her first so she wouldn’t have to watch me die. That’s sweet.
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We head up massive hills, make sharp turns, all the while avoiding deer and armadillos that seem to come out of nowhere. It just keeps getting darker and darker. I’m trying to follow the directions on my phone which I’m illegally holding in my hand because I don’t have a holder. He tells me to forget about the route map and just keep going straight until it comes to an end. I think too deeply on the existential interpretation of that statement. Gulp.

While we were stopped at Whataburger I tried to find an XM radio station that matched his personality. I guess the Pearl Jam one, but now I’m thinking I should have picked something a little more Patrick Bateman. I can’t help but think this is what hookers must feel like when they have to pleasure clients they’d rather not even look at. I just want this to end. It’s so incredibly uncomfortable.
images-12     The road keeps getting more and more narrow, but we start to see a few mailboxes so we may just get out of this yet. He tells us to pull over onto a side road that immediately dead ends into an iron gate. Just like that, he says we’re at his house which I can’t even see from the front gate. He walks over to a keypad and presses in some sort of code. We don’t even wait to see if it works, we just back out and head out ASAP.
images-13       After we calmed ourselves after fits of laughter, we go over our thoughts during the entire ordeal. We had to reaffirm that he really was as creepy as we’d made him out to be. We went over the evidence at every turn and built up quite a case against him. At the end, we were lucky we got out of it unscathed.

We drive the 45 minutes back home and only when I pull into our neighborhood do I notice that I never told the app that we delivered the goods. I quickly hit END TRIP and that officially closes the ride, and stops the meter. Yeah, I may have accidentally doubled his fare, but I think I deserve it. We had the lengthy unscheduled Whataburger stop and is he really going to complain to Uber about what happened on his trip home from the strip club? He’s wise to just keep quiet about the whole thing and chalk it up to a crazy night. I’m sure he spent five times as much money on strippers anyways.

Well my latest way of supplementing my income didn’t get off to the easy start I thought it would, but at least I foresee adventure in this endeavor. Next day off I have at home after I fly my Rome trip tomorrow will be spent trying it again. I’ll set aside four hours and just answer ride requests. I’ll figure out what exactly I can expect in a day’s work and if it really is something worth doing on my time off. I may want to do it during the daytime though, not at 11pm. I’ll learn.

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The Check-in Kings

1I know how it sounds when I say it out loud. If you asked me what I’ve done in the last week it sounds unreal or that I’m bragging about it. First there was watching the end of the Tour de France along the Champs Elysees in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe, followed by meeting Liverpool FC legends Robbie Fowler and Ian Rush at a private event in New York City. Then I got to go to the Tate Modern museum in London and have a drink at a bar where the Clash used to hang out. The very next day I was in Chicago at Lollapalooza listening to some of my favorite bands. All of that stuff happened in six days!

My friends that follow these adventures on Facebook tell me how exciting my life must be and how much they envy whatever it is I’m doing whenever I step out of my house. Well, that’s exactly the downside to this job and lifestyle, I’m NEVER at home. That’s something that non-airline people don’t always get. Yeah we do a lot of fun stuff all over the place, but that is really the silver lining to a job that keeps you away from all of your loved ones for most of the month, every month, for years on end.

2If you don’t love your friends and family, then yeah, being a flight attendant is the perfect job for you, but most of us see major drawbacks to it. Plus, it doesn’t pay that well so you have to fly extra trips just to make ends meet. When I pick up a trip to Milan, it’s because that’ll be the difference between me being able to pay all my bills that month or not. Some of my friends don’t see it that way and just see that I posted a photo of George Clooney’s place on Lake Como. Trust me, I’d rather be at home doing something. anything. or even nothing. But yeah, seeing that house was interesting so here’s a photo, what of it?

3If I’m lucky I’ll get to go home twice a month for 6 days each time. The first of these days is spent repairing whatever broke in my house while I was away for the last week and a half. This is also when I try to resuscitate my garden and mow the lawn. I refuse to talk to anyone for at least the first thirty-six hours after I get back, I need to be alone and decompress.

4The next day I’ll do all the chores and run all the errands than need to be done. I may have a chance to watch whatever I DVR-ed if I’m lucky. The second night is usually spent alone, holed up in my house. Pure heaven. I don’t think normal people appreciate their beds as much as flight attendants do, especially if you’re sleeping in a bunk bed at your crash pad in a boring part of Queens several nights a month.

By the third day I’m ready to be social. The next three days I’ll try to cram in as many friends and loved ones as I can. Luckily most of them get along so I can suggest meeting up in a big group. Some don’t play well with others so I have to arrange one on one time with them. I always make sure to have at least one meal with my mom while I’m at home.

6Back in my single days I’d have to try to find a way to have a date at some point too, but most girls aren’t that understanding of my schedule. More than one relationship fizzled out before it even started simply because I wasn’t there. Relationships are nearly impossible, it’s almost as if you need to find someone who likes you in theory, but doesn’t really want you around. Even if you are at home, half the time it isn’t during the weekend so good luck finding someone employed who wants to have a big night on a Tuesday.

7The last day off is never fully relaxing. I have to prepare everything to be neglected again. I have to repack for up to two weeks. I also have to keep my eye on the flight loads to make sure I can get back to New York in time to work my flight later that same day. If the flights are full, I have to cut my time at home short and go back a day early, back to that damn bunk bed.

Having a roommate is an obvious way to help out with the mortgage payments as well as keep an eye on the place, but to be honest, that’s the last thing a flight attendant really wants. You have a crash pad with a dozen other people in a small apartment and then you’re on a plane with hundreds of people every day. The last thing you want when you go home is another human being to deal with and the last thing you want to talk about is your week at work.

8At my high school reunion last year so many people told me how much they loved seeing the photos I’ve taken all over the world and reading about whatever it was that I was up to. I’m glad they enjoy that, but I don’t think a single one of them believed me when I said I enjoyed reading their updates about the little things at home just as much. There’s a lot to be said about just sitting back and enjoying your home and your family. Just to feel a part of your community is pretty amazing. I feel like I’m just popping in to make an appearance the way Larry did on Three’s Company, or better yet, Mr. Furley.

I appreciate my job and the opportunities I have, and I’m well aware that I can quit anytime if this lifestyle gets to be too much of a hassle. I know a lot of people would kill for this job, it’s not an easy one to get. But trust me, there’s a different side to it. If you’re judging it simply by the check-ins on Facebook, then you may never realize it. The grass is certainly greener on the other side 99% of the time.

I guess the main point is that we all give up something to live the way we do. Everything comes with a price and hopefully the price you pay is worth what you’re getting back. Everyone needs to find their own way to reconcile their dreams with their reality and make sure they’re doing what they’re doing for the greatest good possible.

9I will never begrudge a stock broker for his fancy car and big house. I know what he has to do to get it and that’s not worth it for me. I will never make fun of someone who quits their job to move to Costa Rica just to sell seashells on the sea-shore to tourists. If that makes that person happy, then I’m happy for them. We have just one life so find a way to make the important things come first. We all have the ability to change our station, as terrifying as that may sound.

As many friends I have who like to keep tabs on what I’m up to in my travels, there are almost as many who think I’m just showing off by simply mentioning where I am and what I’m doing. It’s not that at all, but I do focus on the positives and don’t apologize for that. We should all be doing that. We all have positives and then other stuff we just deal with in order to live the life we want. They’re called sacrifices, and yes, flight attendants sacrifice too. We miss out on a lot at home, and not just the obvious things like holidays, though waking up in my own bed on Christmas morning would be nice for a change. It’s really dumb luck if we’re off and at home in order to go to things like: birthdays, parties, recitals, Monday night football, Taco Tuesday etc etc. All those things normal people take for granted.

10This job has a shelf life for me. It was the best thing in the world when I was in my twenties, but soon the forties are coming and my priorities are changing. I love being home more than anything. This adventure I’m on has lasted over sixteen years and I’m trying my best to experience as much as I can, while I can. It’s not a non-stop party though, it never has been.  As time goes on, the balance is shifting on whether or not the positives outweigh the sacrifices. I think flight attendants are just better than most at taking advantage of their occupational benefits and using social media to let their families know what they’re up to.

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Prepping for The Amazing Race

imagesIt’s always been a dream of mine to be on The Amazing Race. Out of all the reality shows I think that’s the one I could do the best on, and would enjoy the most. I would do it without the million dollar prize. I really could not care less about the money, I just want the experience.

Unknown-9Survivor would be an epic failure as far as reality shows go. Fear Factor just seems pointless. Big Brother even more so, but at least you have a chance to hook up with someone. Plus no one is watching that show in case you have to do something embarrassing. Actually American Gladiators would be alot of fun, if it were still on.

UnknownI’m a great armchair quarterback when watching The Amazing Race at home and of course I always make all the right decisions. Just like watching Wheel of Fortune at home where it’s always your turn and there are never Bankrupts, you have that same luxury with watching Race. You never get the cabbie who needs to stop for gas or ask for directions. You never get on the flight that has to divert to Botswana.

images-4Even when the less-than-ideal situations arise, I think I’d still do alright. I can cope on the fly pretty well and my experience as a flight attendant would certainly help navigating through airports and running around in weird cities.

I would help my cause beforehand for sure. I would do everything possible from the moment I found out I was on the show until we took off to meet Phil. I’m starting a list of just what those things would be.

Let’s say I get 6 weeks to prep before the race starts. Let’s also say that I don’t have to go through the audition process of picking a partner. I’ve been doing that for years. I have a few people who are potentials. Some of the ones I would perform the best with aren’t necessarily the ones I’d want to be with 24/7 for however long the race lasts.

Unknown-4Some of the ones I know I would love spending every second racing alongside aren’t necessarily the ones I’d succeed with in the competition. It’s a fine line and very few people would satisfy the criteria to make the race both fun and lucrative. Selecting your sweetie can be a brilliant or horrible idea.

Unknown-6Ultimately I would pick a partner based on my weaknesses, mainly eating anything gross or in large quantities. Partner must also speak at least one other language fluently. Not German though, I know enough of that to get by. Partner must also have to be able to tolerate me thinking I always know the right way to go. Partner must also hold their tongue when I’m wrong and we end up in a Turkish prison.

TO-DO List

1)  Clear things up with work so it’s not a situation of me having to quit to be on the show. I think that’ll be easy, my airline has had flight attendants on the show before. They didn’t fare too well, but we were proud of them all the same. Redemption!

images-22)  Start running and getting into as good of shape as possible. Take up yoga. Maybe a dance class as well. If I can’t learn rhythm, learn to fake it.

images-33)  Learn to drive stick. I have only done it once and that was for five minutes in driver’s ed. It was in a straight line in the high school football stadium parking lot. Stalling occurred.

Unknown-34)  Get Rosetta Stone for two languages not known by my partner, one being an Asian language. Have partner get the basics of one or two new languages as well, maybe sign language too. This will mainly be done while on the treadmill or on days when I’m too sore to exercise more.  Multitasking will be the key to my training.

5)  Watch every season of The Amazing Race thus far and take meticulous notes on everything imaginable, including: which legs usually have U-turns, Non-eliminations, etc etc. Note, it’s always a good thing if Phil seems extremely sad if he tells a team they’re the last to check in. Nine times out of ten it means you’re still racing, you’re not really the last team, or it’s a non-elimination. Watching all 20+ seasons can also be done while running on treadmill or stationary exercise equipment.

6)  Memorize passport number. Get global entry for when landing back in the USA.

Unknown-57)  Get into the habit of always having a large backpack with me and get to where I can run short and long distances with it on my back. Also get to where I consider the bag as an extension of myself to where I would never leave it on a funicular, gondola, in a taxi, or on the wing of a plane.

8)  Try to learn to eat new foods. Find hypnotist to help in that. Or maybe take one of those sexy classes where they teach you how to really relax your throat muscles and allow things to go in without gagging. There’s always a bingeing challenge.

9)  Get to where I can swim long distances

Unknown-110) Brush up on rock climbing, scuba diving, and canoeing skills. Maybe get somewhat proficient in synchronized swimming and basic gymnastics.

11) Get to where I can run a mile comfortably in snow, sand, and whilst carrying/dragging heavy, cumbersome objects.

Unknown-712) Learn to communicate with animals, especially notoriously stubborn ones

images-113) Get full physical and tune-up from my doctor. Find the line of legal supplements/illegal steroids and don’t cross it.

Unknown-214) Pick out wardrobe. Be prepared for all climates and possible meteorological phenomenon. Shop around for advertising deals from local stores. Let everyone know I can be bought. My team can look like a Nascar vehicle if necessary. I don’t mind having Coke on one sleeve and Pepsi on the other.

Unknown-815) Last but not least is going to couples therapy with my partner. Even if I go with my mom or childhood friend, it wouldn’t hurt to have some sessions with a professional. Maybe we could learn some tricks of the trade to bypass potential fights.

That’s a pretty good start I think. Six weeks of working on those 15 things and I bet I’d be as ready as possible to take on the race of a lifetime. My passport has been needing some new stamps. It’s feeling neglected. Now I just need to get on the damn show and everything will be perfect in my world.

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UAE/Oman Cruise

DSC_0260I like cruises and I like the Middle East but I didn’t know how the two would combine. It didn’t seem like they’d mesh well together, that you should just focus on one or the other.

DSC_0288Well I was wrong to worry. The two complemented each other perfectly. It really was the best of both worlds. Along with good food, easy accommodation, a variety of entertainment, and a good price, we got to see alot of shit as well. There was a tour of the world’s tallest building, gorgeous beaches, dolphins, Omani fiords, camels, coffee with Bedouins, 4x4s over sand dunes, many mosques, and confusing graffiti.

IMG_7618Any time I go on vacation I want to come back with some photos. Even if I have the time of my life on a trip, if I don’t have some quality pics to go along with it, I see it as a bit of a bummer.

DSC_0264It was impossible to leave the Emirates/Oman without great pictures, all you had to do was open your eyes. Even Amanda had some breathtaking pictures, all taken with her phone.

Along with a collection of photos, we had a collection of quotes. I think they work best if you read them completely out of context.

“I’d eat a snake while looking at a snake.”

“I’d rather think about ninjas than Jesus Christ. ”

“I wonder how many times you’re going to bleed on this trip.”

“Beak down, ass up…that’s the way we like to shit.”

“Why do you have to hurt me anytime you want anything?!??”

“I want to know the weight of the Burj Khalifa in Mentos.”
“Or bibles.”

“My shovel was my best friend.”

Waiter – “you want to be sexy all the time?”

“I would mourn your death, we’ve discussed this enough times.”

“I’m on a dhow/you’re going down.”

“If you didn’t want to get yelled at by strangers, you should have just stayed in your sun chair.”

I’m currently pricing Around the World cruises.

DSC_0220It really is a slippery slope though. You take a trip like this and all you can think about is where else in the world you want to hit next. It becomes an obsession. It’s like adrenaline junkies always looking for the next fix. It just keeps getting worse. The more places I go, the more I want to visit. Discovering things like how the Middle East isn’t scary and is completely bad ass doesn’t help matters.

As of now I have big trips I am positive I’ll take as soon as possible, but even if I knock them out as quickly as possible, It’ll take four years to do them all, unless I win the lottery. Southeast Asia, Nepal, Greece/Croatia, China, Machu Picchu, and Antarctica are a few. I think Nepal is the Fall is next.

world-according-to-americansSometimes I think that I’d be better off if I never left my hometown and had no idea how amazing the rest of the world is. It’d certainly save me alot of money if I bought into the propaganda and truly believed that America is the only worthwhile country in the world. That’s what we were taught growing up, maybe they were just trying to save me money.

Road Trip- The Retrospective

imagesI landed in Los Angeles Sunday morning. I’m glad I sprung for First Class because I’d just landed in New York at 6am from the Rio trip I was working. The flight to LA left at 7:30am. I slept all the way to LA and got in before noon. Amanda had started the drive without me. She made it from San Francisco to Los Angeles the day before and was staying with her friend in Culver City. I missed out on Day 1, which apparently included alot of rainbows.

Even though I was well rested and we could’ve hit the ground running, we decided to spend the day in rainy LA eating the Shakey’s buffet among three different Latino birthday parties.

images-2Amanda went to sleep early, mostly because of her heavy-duty cold medicine, maybe because of the wine too. We found her lying suspiciously on our hostess’s bedroom floor and put her straight to bed. Later we found out that she hadn’t really passed out, she was lying there playing with the cats and then just sort of dozed off.

images-6We both slept on the floor by accident that night. I woke up on the floor because the air mattress I was on had slowly deflated through the night. I woke up with my backbone on the ground and the sides of the air mattress up in the air like a taco.

Unknown-3We had a kick ass breakfast at Green Peas and then hit the road for Day 2 in a very un-socal drizzle. We set the Tom Tom on a soothing Aussie voice and instructed him (Tozza) to direct Amanda’s Cabrio to Las Vegas. The drive from LA to Vegas is pretty boring, but it was fun to think about all the legendary trips people have taken over the years on these roads- both real and on-screen. We made several Swingers and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas references, especially near Barstow when I started texting the opening lines of Fear and Loathing to everyone I’ve ever seen the movie with. After a half hour of that I just posted it on my Facebook wall.

1The little silver German car was stuffed with Amanda’s final belongings and my suitcase as well as a cooler full of random snacks and drinks (none of the radiator cheese sandwich elements.) We had everything where it needed to be. We always had direct access to the food, a camera, our phones, and our jackets. Everything else was a chore to get to. My lap was nicknamed Best Buy because of all the electronics on it at any given time.

3This was our shortest day on the road so we had plenty of time to stop and smell the roses. There just wasn’t much to smell. Plus it was still overcast and nasty outside. It was right about Barstow when the skies finally began to clear up. By the time we saw the sign for Calico, the silver mining ghost town, it was downright pretty outside.

4I’ve always wanted to see a ghost town so I was stoked. We pulled off without even discussing it. We paid a shit load of money to see something that wasn’t there, which seemed weird. The abandoned town had been rebuilt to how it had been back in the day, but that isn’t what I wanted to see at all. I wanted the buildings to be old and neglected. I didn’t want the fire house to be new, sturdy, and decorated with Christmas lights. I didn’t want the jail to be a Starbucks. It just figures that in a town that hasn’t had a resident in 50 years, Starbucks is still thriving.

5Even though there was plenty of disappointment in Calico, it was still a good stop. It was cool to get a glimpse of how the mining town operated when it was fully functional. I was just hoping for better photographs of neglect and desolation, not new buildings with bus loads of Chinese tourists standing around.

6We grabbed a cold fountain soda from the young girl dressed in time-appropriate clothes who had just started studying Psych in college. While we sipped on our $3 drinks we checked out the hotels in Vegas. I didn’t care where we stayed but Amanda wanted something slightly nice. At some point I wanted us to stay at a proper interstate motel because that’s a huge part of the road trip experience but it was definitely a good idea to take advantage of the low season in Las Vegas. Early December is a great time to find a bargain. We opted for the MGM Grand, made the booking, and then got back on the road.

Before we knew it we were in Las Vegas and minutes after we had checked in and jumped on the bed, we were being invited to the Mystere Cirque du Soleil show by my friend Kitty who works for the show. She told us to show up ten minutes before showtime and she’d get us in and give us a tour of the stage afterwards. That was fantastic news, we were definitely excited. Amanda had never even seen a Cirque show before.

We had just enough time for a buffet so we did an internet search for the best ones in Vegas. Of course every website said something different but most were consistently raving about The Cosmopolitan. It was on the way to Treasure Island so that worked out perfectly. After tomato basil soup, creamy garlic soup, pickles, custom-made mac-n-cheese, thai rice, green beans, espresso dusted cheese, french onion pizza, margarita pizza, molton chocolate cake with caramel sauce, blood orange sorbet, and a ginger cake, we were ready to waddle over to the show. That was just what I had mind you, Amanda had an equally shameful/wonderful feeding.

8We’re slowed by the Bellagio water show but got to Treasure Island just in time for the performance. The show was amazing and of course Kitty had it so that we were two of the people that got fucked with by the MC during the pre-show. I should’ve been suspicious of that damn spotlight on us!

10After the show she took us behind the scenes and below the stage and showed us every single piece of costume and equipment used in the production. That was remarkable. The space was confined but they sure made the most of it. We even got to see the secret entrance for the celebs. We also got round red nerf noses.

9We had talked about going to Frankie’s Tiki Room but we needed to get up early so we just had one quick drink at one of the casino bars and then called it a night. We were out of the room by 10:30am, losing money in the casino by 10:45am, on the road by 11am, and eating a horrible Taco Bell breakfast by 11:30am.

12Amanda had driven us all the way to Las Vegas but I got the wheel on Day 3. We were going to go down to Arizona where we’d catch I-40 and then take that all the way to Oklahoma City or at least as far as Amarillo if we decided to go to Dallas instead of OKC. The weather was perfect and the scenery was rustic to say the least. I was a bit more used to the landscape than Amanda. It must have looked like the surface of the moon to the Jersey girl. She kept asking how people could live out here with nothing to do. I understood much more than I let on. You develop an amazing imagination.

14There wasn’t much to see between Vegas and Albuquerque as far as interesting stops, at least not while the sun was out. We got to the meteor crater near Winslow AZ right at 5pm, just in time for every employee to tell us that they’d be closing at 5:30pm sharp and that the bathrooms would be closed at 5:20pm. Even with that drilled into our heads we still ended up getting scolded for trying to pee too late. Again, we paid alot of money to see nothing, but we still enjoyed it.

15The sun was setting in gorgeous colors by the time we headed back to the interstate, yet we still had five hours of driving to go. The car’s Low Fuel light had been blinking which freaked Amanda out like I’ve never seen her freaked. It looked like it came on with ⅛  of the tank left which I thought was plenty to get to the next town but I could tell she wasn’t comfortable at all. To keep the peace I pulled into space station-gas station right at the interstate. We grabbed some caffeine and started with the most boring part of our journey. There was nothing to look at except for 18 wheelers and stars, and we got millions of both. There were also a million billboards advertising all sorts of jerky.

Unknown-4Amanda found an app that told about roadside attractions and trivial facts about the path we were taking. Because our route ran almost on top of Route 66, there were lots of interesting and random things to see and learn. We both had our iPods so we were never short on good music to listen to, though the noise of a rag top convertible going 85 mph makes a lot of noise.

A very kind Arizona highway patrolman pulled us over but let us off with a warning, it’s amazing how having a pretty girl in the car makes those encounters go so much smoother. She didn’t even have to mention that her dad is a retired policeman. That would be the first time we got away with breaking the law on this trip.

UnknownWe needed gas again when we got to Milan, NM and we were both starving. We tried very hard to satisfy two needs at every stop. As luck would have it we were right next to one of those classic truckstop diners called the WOW diner. We feasted much like we did at the Cosmo buffet but for a fourth of the cost as the employees and locals watched the Victoria Secrets fashion show on TV.

It was still two hours to ABQ but we pressed on. Amanda booked us a room at the Radisson even though we really should’ve waited until we stumbled upon a bizarre motel right off the highway, something that you’d see in a horror movie. That may be my one regret with this trip.

I kept the speed down and cursed that the cruise control didn’t work. We get into ABQ and find the hotel with little problem. After some attitude from the front desk lady we get our room. Twelve hours later we’re waking up in a panic because we overslept.

images-4We’d already decided to skip OKC and instead go to Ft. Worth to visit some friends but now we’d be rolling into town after 10pm. So much for that. We grab a Sonic brunch and get back on the road. I’m driving again because Amanda is groggy from her cold medicine, which is the main reason we overslept in the first place. She turned off the alarm and went back to sleep whereas I didn’t even hear the alarm to begin with. I knew she shouldn’t be driving when she offered me her toothpaste whilst asking, “Do you need this toilet paper?”

17Day 4 was supposed to be slightly longer than day 3, but now most of the drive would be at night. It looked like we’d be getting to Cadillac Ranch outside of Amarillo just as the sun would be setting. We get on the road and finally get to see what New Mexico looks like. It was already pitch black when we entered it the night before so this was our first glimpse. It was barren but more mountainous than desert. It was a whole bunch of nothing but I didn’t mind. I like how easy it is to get lost in your thoughts while driving out west. It reminds me of growing up in West Texas.

Every now and then Amanda would ask me random questions like What would I buy if I won the lottery or What would I name a boat if I had one? Those always made for some interesting conversations. We also made way too many bad puns and jokes along the way, like wanting to ask the residents of Gallup how they felt about a variety of issues.

16When we got to Texas we got out of the car and took a photo of Amanda with the the Welcome to Texas sign. Actually I stayed in the car with the engine running because we were running late.

18We make our way to Cadillac Ranch and have a quick photo shoot amongst the kids spray painting the cars. There were empty cans everywhere but we found a couple that had a little left in the tank so we left our mark as well. The second time we broke the law on this road trip and got away with it!

20I love the smell of aerosol paint cans and it shocked me that Amanda doesn’t. She loves the smell of jet fuel but not spray paint. Strange. Funny what you learn about people when you spend so much time together in close proximity.

21After contemplating the 72 ounce steak in Amarillo we get off of the interstate and onto state highway 287 all the way to Ft. Worth. Since we were getting in too late to see our friends we called off the meeting and decided to just power on through and make it to Austin without stopping. We quickly checked with Tozza and he said that even though we didn’t need to go through Ft. Worth anymore, it was still the fastest way to get to Austin. That was about the time I saw the one and only shooting star of the trip. I made a wish.

It was getting to that point where we needed to think about food since places would be closing soon. We didn’t worry since Wichita Falls was less than an hour away. At the very least we’d hit a Denny’s or IHOP if the normal places were closed.

24Wichita Falls came and went and we didn’t see anywhere to eat. All the normal places closed at 9pm and we just never saw an all-night place. We may have been distracted by me taking long-exposure photos while driving and Amanda talking to her mom on the phone. Before we knew it we were out of the city and in the middle of nowhere again.

Our Low Fuel indicator light came on around Bowie. As soon as it came on she wanted to stop but I saw that Bowie was only 12 miles ahead and had better food options than the no name town we were passing. That was the closest thing we had to a fight. She just didn’t trust that we’d make it. I promised that I’d be the one to walk to the gas station if we ran out of gas, but leaving her alone in the car on a lonely country road wasn’t exactly a better situation. It was a tense and silent ten minutes.

images-5To be honest we were further into the danger zone after the meteor crater, I guess she just didn’t realize it at the time. We make it to Bowie and we both let out a sigh of relief. We fill up with gas and head next door to the Armadillo cafe just to find out that they’re closing. Amanda took over driving again so I caught up on all of my Words with Friends games.

Ft. Worth was just up ahead, there would for sure be somewhere to eat there. By the time we get to Ft. Worth and get back on the interstate, we realize we’re on the home stretch. Food didn’t really seem that important anymore. It was less than three hours to home.

Unknown-1The drive from Ft. Worth to Hillsboro to Waco to Temple to Georgetown is a very boring one but at night it isn’t as bad. At least when it’s dark you can’t see the ugly scenery. We rolled into my/our driveway at 1am. We hadn’t planned on driving for 13 hours the last day but it really wasn’t that bad, especially considering the only meal we had was Sonic in Albuquerque. I made a feast when we got inside.

Unknown-2I had trimmed the under-brush of my two trees in the front yard a few weeks ago and never got around to throwing all the branches away. I had the carnage in two huge garbage cans. We took full advantage of Amanda’s convertible to dispose of the dead limbs. We took the top down, crammed the garbage cans into the back seat and drove to a secluded part of the subdivision where we dumped the branches as if we were disposing of a dead body. The third and final time we broke the law and got away with it. And with that, the trip was officially over and we could go to sleep.

All in all the road trip was a phenomenal success. It was good to know that we could stand being around each other for nearly five days straight. The furthest apart we were physically was when I was standing at the gas pump and she was inside in the restroom writing on the wall (they encouraged that, not the fourth time breaking the law.) Other than that, we were always within touching distance and that didn’t seem to get old, so that’s a good sign since now we officially live together.

Zen and the Art of the Road Trip

imagesThe freedom of the open road is a wonderful thing. I used to love taking road trips when I was a teenager. It was the quintessential rite of passage for a teenager in the 90s. I drove from Austin to Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington DC, New York, Chicago, and most national parks within one hundred miles of any road leading to those cities. I would go out of my way just to cross a border in order to tick another state off my list.

images-2The trips weren’t really that free and easy though, I had everything planned down to the penny we’d be spending on food, gas, and hotels as well as how far we’d be driving each day and how long we could sleep in before hitting the road again. I even calculated when my Prelude would be getting low on gas and where the nearest Texaco would be. That was the fun part for me. So in reality there wasn’t much wiggle room at all and certainly not too much freedom once the trip began. The freedom came in the days when I sat down with my trusty rusty Rand McNally road map and came up with the game plan.

I wouldn’t always take the most direct route, in fact, carefully penciling in spontaneous side trips and excursions was part of the fun. I always give my self an hour for an unexpected photo shoot somewhere en route. I tend to avoid the interstates if there’s something scenic to see on the smaller roads. If I’m driving from San Antonio to El Paso however, I want to be on the highway that allows me to drive the fastest because there is precious little to see between those two places. Next!

Unknown-4I love everything about road trips, even if I’m doing them by myself. As long as I have some music and a cooler full of snacks and drinks, I’m good. The only thing I don’t really like about road trips is when I’m taking one with someone who refuses to speed or needs to stop too often. I’m a huge believer that you should never stop for just one reason. If you need gas, then make it meal time as well. No stop on the road should last more than ten minutes. Nothing is more annoying than having to repass cars and trucks you’ve already passed before. It’s just embarrassing. Those drivers, though going slower than I, are all laughing at me because they know I don’t know how to properly manage my road trip. If at all possible, eat the food while you drive. If I could rig a bathroom in my front seat, I probably would. I’ve often wondered if I could just cut a hole in the floor and install some sort of tube leading to my crotch area.

On one trip through the desert going out to LA, I came up with the idea of a radiator cheese sandwich. I had all the elements for a grilled cheese sandwich in my cooler but no way to melt the cheese. I was in the middle of nowhere and a cold cheese sandwich seemed boring.

UnknownI got the bread, butter, and cheese out and made the sandwich.  I wrapped it up in aluminum foil and opened the hood of the car.  I placed it on the radiator and gently closed the hood, only slightly squashing it.  After a good fifty miles in the midday sun, it would be ready. I headed west on state highway 60 for half an hour. When it was time to take a piss break on a dry cactus I opened the hood to see what kind of mess I made of my engine. Surprisingly it worked out very well. I sat on my car to watch the sunset and ate my sandwich, deliciously melted to perfection, albeit a little soggy.

Unknown-1When I got my flight attendant job that’s how I spent my first vacation. I was so sick of cities and airports. I had two weeks off so my friend and I got in my car and drove from Austin to New Mexico, up into Colorado, over to Utah, back down to Arizona and then back. We hit every park we could find: Mesa Verde, Arches, Bryce, Zion, Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, White Sands, Big Bend, and even stopped to see the huge meteor crater. After a few days stay in Ruidoso, New Mexico I was ready to get back to civilization and the real world. Mission accomplished!

images-3I haven’t been on a proper road trip since then, and that was in 1999. I’ve driven from New York to Austin a couple of times but that was basically by myself in a moving van. It didn’t really count for some reason, probably because that drive is very boring except thru Pennsylvania Dutch country. It was a drive of necessity rather than pleasure. Getting two speeding tickets in the state of New Jersey didn’t help my outlook on the adventure. I spent the next few days staring at my speedometer and double checking with every speed limit sign.

Unknown-2Tomorrow that’s going to change though. As soon as I land back in New York from this Rio trip I’m on, I’m catching a flight out to Los Angeles. My girlfriend has packed up all of her belongings and we’re driving her stuff from San Francisco to Austin. For those who are wondering, the drive is 1760 miles, almost to the mile the same distance from Austin to New York City. If you drove straight it’d take 25 hours. We plan on breaking it up a bit.

images-1Since the girlfriend has to be out of her apartment today, she’s going to start the trip without me. She’s making it down to LA and that’s where I’ll meet her. From there we’re going to spend a day there with our friends and start driving the next morning. Though we don’t have any real obligations or places we HAVE to see, we’re probably going to follow this plan. We’ll make it to Las Vegas the first day (or Grand Canyon) and call it a day after a relatively short drive. We’ll enjoy the evening and start early the next day.

I’m not sure how I feel about doing my first road trip with a Navigator. I’m a purist and would rather just have paper maps but I guess I should get with the times. There’s something special about holding a map and figuring it out though. When you input a destination you go from being the leader to a follower. You aren’t calling the shots anymore. You exit when she tells you to exit and you stay left when she tells you to stay left. I used to pride myself for my map skills, it’s becoming a lost art in my own lifetime. Just being able to fold a map was something to brag about. Now there’s probably an app for that.

images-5There’s talk of spending a night in either Dallas or with my family in Oklahoma City so the halfway point to either of those places would be right around Albuquerque. That would be the logical stopping point for the next night and an appropriate spot since we both love Breaking Bad. Maybe they’re still filming the last episodes and they could use a couple of extras to OD or something. That’d be sweet.

Stopping once between Vegas/Grand Canyon and OKC/Dallas would also mean driving ten hours the second and third days on the road, which is what you really need for a good road trip. If you’re not cramping up and suffering from highway hypnosis then you’re not really on a road trip. If you haven’t drifted into the path of an 18-wheeler at least once, causing him to blare his horn in terror, then you need to get back out there and do it properly.

Unknown-3We’ve already discussed music playlists and games as well as what we want in the all important cooler. I haven’t told her about the existence of radiator cheese sandwiches but I have a feeling I’ll spring that on her somewhere around Barstow. Maybe I’ll slide one onto her radiator when she’s in the bathroom during one of our predetermined gas/potty breaks.

After a night in Dallas or OKC we’ll be on the home stretch to Austin. I could do the drive on I-35 from either of those places in my sleep and I have done so before. There will be nothing interesting to explore for me on that last day but it’ll all be new to her. It’ll be a stretch of highway she’s going to need to learn well. Hint, always take the West split through the metroplex. Going thru Fort Worth is always better than going through Dallas.

images-4I’m looking forward to the trip. I keep forgetting the main purpose is to move her into my house so that we can start living like a normal couple, as much as two flight attendants can live like a normal couple. I guess if we can survive several days on the open road together going through the barren Southwest, then we can handle anything. I just wish gas was still at 1999 prices and Motel 6s still cost $6 a night.

Click here to check out Locations NYC, the ultimate tourist app for exploring New York City and here for my book Straight Guy in the Queer Skies. It will answer any and every question you’ve ever had about the job and lifestyle of flight attendants.

Straight Guy Lesson #23- The Mancation

Men have their Guy Trips and ladies will take their Girl Trips and there are connotations and mental images for both.

Yes, in most cases what happens on these trips is  exactly what you thought would happen, though no one will admit to it. They are full of debauchery and regret, but with a tinge of pride. It’s what makes life worth living. Those trips are what you think back on whilst lying on your death-bed, I reckon. I think I will at least. It does come with a price though.

You’ll spend the rest of your life praying your mates will keep their damn mouths shut and not rat you out. If you’re lucky, your entire crew misbehaved so that you know everyone has a secret they’ll want to take to the grave. That’s why husbands aren’t really allowed to take Guy’s Trips and wives don’t get away with Girl’s Trips after the “I Dos.” Everyone knows what’s up.

But the fun doesn’t necessarily have to end. Here is a way to get away with a Charlie Sheen week without being second-guessed for even a second…

Go! To! Iceland!

In case you don’t know, Iceland is the new hotspot for bachelor parties and misconduct. I didn’t know that when I went there last month but the girl who sold us our bottles of vodka at the JFK Duty Free store sure knew all about it. When she saw five guys roll up with ten bottles of this and that without female companions, she simply asked, “Reykjavík?”

Yes, Reykjavík.

It’s as fun and crazy as any city on this great planet of ours, but what sets it apart is that if you go for a week in June like we did, you’ll never see the night sky. Not once. Not even close. I’m not sure if that’s what makes the natives and tourists crazy or if it’s something inside the volcanic rock, but that place is just wrong, in a good way mostly. Everything about that island/nation is bizarre. The way people look, sound, spell things, and act on a Saturday night is all indicative of a place that really hasn’t had much interaction with outsiders until the last generation or two.

Quentin Tarantino has a famous quote about the place. He says,  “In America, the idea is to get the girls drunk enough to go home with you. In Iceland, you get the girls home before they get so drunk that they’re passing out in the bathroom.” Or something like that.

I’m not going to tell you what you can expect from your dirty trip to “Freakjavík,” that’s for you to discover. I’m just going to tell you how to get away with it for when you get back to your people. The answer is found in two words, “Golden Circle.”

In five short hours you can get a week’s worth of amazing photographs to take home to your wife and children in one drive around the Golden Circle. You’ll see fields of wildflowers, hot springs, rustic streams of melted ice, massive waterfalls, charming farmhouses in front of rugged mountains, and a geyser that shoots up every seven minutes or so.

You even get to see where two of the earth’s tectonic plates meet! You can literally straddle the crack they form with one foot on one plate and one on the other! If you include your innocent trip to the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa on your way to or from the airport, you’ll have so many images to show people. They’ll think you spent the entire holiday in a rental car, stone cold sober. It will look like the most boring place on the face of the Earth, albeit a gorgeous one.

You’ll know the truth though. You saw all those amazing things in one afternoon on less than one tank of gas. You may want to bring a change of clothing if you really want to sell this ruse. Slip into a different sweatshirt at the Geysir. Maybe start the drive with scruff and then shave once you get to the Gullfoss waterfall (you might recognize this place from the Echo and the Bunnymen album cover for Porcupine)

After making the drive, which begins as soon as you leave the city limits of Reykjavík, and stopping here and there for some photo ops, you’ll have 6 1/2 days of your week left wide open to partake in whatever shenanigans you want and to get your stories straight with your mates.

Here is my trip to Iceland 😉

See? Good clean fun!

Straight Guy in the Queer Skies: The Book is now available in paperback and Kindle versions!