Tag Archives: drinking

Reading Festival 2012 aka Day-Glo and Camel Toe

Every year at the three-day Reading music festival in England the world gets a glimpse of where fashion is at for the young people. Whatever random trends are going on will be magnified by a million as 87,000 concert goers try to out-do each other in a huge field in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the fads that take root here spread all over the world in just weeks. Be ready.

2012 was no exception, of course. First of all I was very happy to see that the kids have started to abandon the Pete Doherty look. There were still a few Amy Winehouse hair-dos and make up jobs but not enough to annoy me. Thank Christ the Bat for Lashes fantasy fairy unicorn look with mystical hair bands has been completely left behind. It made me feel too old and creepy.

This year we were still onboard with neon face paint. The guys mostly had random smears under their eyes but the girls had elaborate crop circle patterns all over their faces. This was going on last year and I couldn’t notice if this was still warming up or cooling off. Even some of the older patrons would sport a random pink dot on their cheek or forehead.

Of course we had an assortment of band and past-festival shirts. No one dared wear the headliner’s shirt they sold at the official store though quite a few people had the official Reading shirts which included the list of performers on all the stages. Those shirts were very helpful keeping you on track to which bands were playing on the various stages.

Along with music related shirts there were many plain white tees with homemade messages scrawled on the fronts. The best was a mockery of the cliché Spring Break shirt “The Man The Legend” where The Man writing is pointing up to the guy’s head and The Legend is pointing to his junk. I’ve yet to meet a girl who’s been impressed by that shirt, but you still see them all over the place, usually in Cancun on fifteen year old boys. This ginger haired teen with a mohawk had his own take on that infamous shirt. It said The Man with the arrow pointing up at his face but the punchline read The Huge Disappointment. I guarantee that guy got laid. He deserved to at least. I thought it was brilliant.

As always there were many costumes and animal heads. The Mario and Luigi with an extra Luigi team was just lazy. They probably got those outfits off of the clearance rack. Superheroes were aplenty and equally as brainless but the popularity of The Big Bang Theory seemed to legitimize their efforts somewhat.

The more innovated kids were a giant set of crayons, a streak of tigers, a tribe of Indians, the Church lady, and my favorite, a hairy dude that shaved his chest so that it looked like he was wearing a tie. I think I liked him because he actually had enough hair to pull it off. He wasn’t a teenager and that made me feel more at ease.

Lisa and I dressed for the weather rather than to impress. We were about 20 years older than the average festival goer anyways, we didn’t want to draw attention to ourselves any more than we already were. There were some other people our age but they were either super weird or there with their kids. I had on a long sleeve western shirt, jeans, and a gray fleece. We had rain ponchos just in case, we got into those just as The Vaccines were half way through their set.

Most of the fashion we experienced was pretty standard. We saw alot of the 80s reincarnated with a modern twist. What I was not expecting was the new obsession with short shorts that show off the ass but go way up the stomach. High-rise shorts are somewhat in right now but these things just looked wrong, especially if they stepped over you as you were sitting on the ground. A random girl walking by with camel toe is humorous but a fleet of underaged ones jumping over you for hours on end is terrifying.

Maybe it was the acid washing, maybe it was that the girls with the wrong body type were wearing them. It was the most unflattering thing I could think of and the most disproportionate girls were trying to pull it off. They failed miserably. The girls that could pull it off were not partaking in this trend.

It will certainly be one of those defining moments in the kids’ lives when they look back at the photos from this weekend in 2012 and realize that they would indeed wear ANYTHING if their friends would as well.

Lisa and I had the ability to see into the future and could see how it’d all play out for them. If I’d asked them yesterday what they thought about their outfits they would swear up and down that they look amazing but in twenty years they’ll be yelling at their parents for allowing them to leave the house like that.

Lastly, as always, were the Wellies. Every color and pattern known to man were represented. I haven’t owned  rainboots since I was four years old but after the deluge we suffered last night, I think I may invest in a pair. My little canvas shoes were no match for the cold puddles and since the sun had gone down, there was zero chance of them getting dry or even warm. Even though the boots will take up half the space in my suitcase, it will be worth it.

My shoes didn’t dry overnight in my hotel and were still damp when I unpacked my suitcase tonight in New York. Now they’re in my locker at the airport stinking up the place. The mud is flaking and infecting everything else in there. It’s madness all around.

The best part about the huge music festivals besides getting to see a shit ton of bands all at once, is the people watching. It’s like Jane Goodall out there. These kids are away from supervision for an entire weekend and they take full advantage. Their actions speak of this just as much as their clothing. It’s like a PG-13 rated Hedonism.

Some of the bold statements will catch on and some will be laughed at as the massive failures that they are. The stuff that does gather steam can go on to influence the world. Things Lisa and I saw these silly kids wearing four years ago is still mainstream in the second-tier cities in the world. It’s amazing.

Next year I’m going to make this a photo blog entry and interview the most innovative and insane culprits. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t think of doing that this year until we were halfway through the Kasabian show at the end of the night. I can’t wait.

You can order my book by clicking here on this link. If I make enough for a decent camera, next year we’ll have video footage of all the craziness!

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!

Memories of the Costa Concordia

As almost everyone knows, Costa’s Concordia ship, carrying 4,200 passengers and crew, had its hull ripped open when it hit rocks late on Friday the 13th, just hours into a Mediterranean cruise. By tonnage, it is the largest passenger ship to ever sink, even though technically it’s only partially sunk.

Captain Francesco Schettino is under house arrest, accused of causing the crash. Prosecutors have also accused him of fleeing the Costa Concordia before evacuation was complete. Dickhead.

He’s now saying that he tripped into the lifeboat and couldn’t get out. If the Italians hadn’t already given themselves a horrible reputation for their soccer players feigning fouls and diving to get free kicks, then maybe we could believe that. But we’re onto them. Nice try.

I have different mental images of that ill-fated vessel than the ones I’ve seen this week. I’ve only been on two cruises in my life and the first was a 7-Day Western Mediterranean cruise on the Concordia starting in Rome with stops in Savona, Barcelona, Mallorca, Tunisia, Malta, and Sicily in 2007. I loved it, it was one of the best weeks ever.

I’m trying to figure out if the same dude was the Captain back then. I saw him at the Captain’s dinner one night and he looks like the guy in handcuffs on the news, but who knows. I’m pretty sure it’s him, but maybe I’m discovering that I think that all middle-aged Italian guys look exactly the same. 2012 is certainly a year of self-discovery. The SOPA blackout/boycott is slowing down my research efforts, but I fully support it.

In the next few months that ship will slowly be removed and God only knows what will happen to its remains. I made several friends who worked as waiters, chambermaids, and card dealers on that ship that week. I don’t know if they’re still employed there or not, but I really hope they’re safe.

This is the way I’d prefer to remember the Concordia. A little trip down memory lane.

My friend Kenny a few minutes after we realized that they gave us a full bed instead of two twins. The problem was being fixed while we toured the ship.

Didn’t feel like doing the safety demonstration so we skipped it. It was going to take way too long since they had to do it in seven languages.

Our favorite Romanian casino girls. Oh, so many Euros went into their pretty little hands.

The most patient waiter I’ve ever met, he had to deal with the only table of Americans. I tried to recruit him for my airline.

Kimma, who kept our mixers full and our illegal vodka a secret from The Man.

Mimi playing with the slots

Me ripping up Mimi’s room-service breakfast order after a disagreement. I’m not sure if I’ve ever told her that I did that. Hee hee, sorry Mimi 😉

The Kings of the Roulette tournament

The big winners of the Black Jack tournament, Kenny was the only one on the ship that made both finals! Yes, he has two of those cheesy shirts.

Kenny winning over the mother of the one young hot chick in the disco on Singles Night

The best part about cruising with an Italian company, the kick-ass all night pizza

Fun at the ports- kickin’ it in Barcelona

And while we were on the La Pedrera roof, we saw this photo shoot going on next door! Every male on the roof took this same photo.

Pulling into Savona, a view from the top

My first taste of Africa, a very watered down taste in Tunis

Poor Kenny got talked into buying a rug. I call this photo, “Buyer’s Remorse”

Beautiful Malta. While I was taking this photo a big wave came and captured all the groceries I’d just purchased, along with my favorite pair of pink/gray checkered Vans that I’d kicked off for a sec. The barefoot walk across town back to the ship was very painful, emotionally and physically.

A glimpse of the gladiator’s life at the Coliseum. And of cats, many many cats.

Whenever accidents happen it’s so easy to let it go in one ear and out the other. Every single day something horrible happens on some part of this planet and because of the internet, we hear about every single one, often while it’s still happening.

We’d all be suicidal if we took the time to really care about all these things going on in our world. It’s just not possible to give a shit about every single thing you see flash on your newsfeed on Facebook or on the evening news.

To be honest, I didn’t think too much about the cruise ship hitting rocks and going down, even after I heard that there were fatalities. It was just another depressing news story. In one ear and out the other.

When you have a personal connection to the tragedy, however, everything changes. Once I found out that it was my Concordia, I gave a shit. I remember that holiday like it was yesterday, even though we all admitted Costa was pretty low-budget. I hope all the people I met on that trip are ok.

I guess I should also realize that in every depressing news story I choose to ignore, that there are people who are personally connected and it’s ruining their world. I’ll try to work on my sympathy/empathy in 2012 as well as this apparent prejudices against middle-aged Italian men I seem to have.

See they all look the same to me! Am I wrong? And to make things equal, some girls to look at too. Something for everybody. Have a nice day.

November 28, 2011- Manchester, UK

I didn’t really celebrate the fact that Frank and I were going to make our soccer game in Liverpool until we started our descent into Manchester, which happened to be when our plane was right above Liverpool. True, some things could happen that might prevent us from making it in, but all the major hurdles had been cleared.

I made it to the airport on time (left an hour earlier than usual). Our plane made it into JFK. Our plane was all patched up. We had a full complement of crew members. There was no inclement weather. Those are the most likely things to screw up a trip.

Of course the most definite way to assure a cancellation or diversion is to actually vocalize the fact that you have plans in whatever city you’re going to. Then you’re screwed. You tell the crew you have dinner plans in Vegas that night, you’re going to end up in Sacramento.

Once we got up in the air I felt pretty good, but once we landed I felt fantastic. We got to the Arora Hotel at around 8am and my alarm was set for 12:45pm in order to meet in the lobby at 1pm. I figured we’d get to Piccadilly Station at around 1:20pm, jump on a train at 1:30pm, arrive in Liverpool at 2:30pm, get to Anfield by cab at 3pm, and have plenty of time to shop at the club store before kick off at 4pm against the undefeated league leaders Manchester City, the New York Yankees of the Premiership with all the money they spend. I’m only slightly worried about the crowd on our train from Manchester to Liverpool. Don’t want any incidents with the away fans!

I tried to sleep, but I’m just too excited. I’m like a kid at Christmas. Or it could be that I’m not as tired as I should be because I didn’t have to work at all on the flight over and spent most of the time sitting in a First Class seat sleeping, editing photos, or trying to kill the baby roach that insisted on hanging around seat 1F.

When I heard the church bells chime at 10am, I knew sleep wasn’t going to happen. I killed a few minutes by putting in all the UK numbers I had into my new UK phone. Putting those two numbers in took about four minutes. I tested both out and immediately got responses from the recipients. Ok, now what to do with myself?

I got dressed and decided to take a walk since the early morning gloom had given way to bright blue skies. I proudly put on my Liverpool jersey and wisely covered it up with my puffy winter jacket. I grabbed my camera, the nice one, and took off towards Salford, not knowing exactly how far it was. I wanted to see the iconic Salford Lads Club from The Smiths lore.

When I came to my first Starbucks I jumped in and utilized their free internet. I got a white chocolate something-or-other to ensure I kept up the energy, though it made my stomach hurt from sweetness. I caught up on all my games of Words with Friends and sent WhatsApp messages to friends in Texas, Australia, and London. I looked up how far away Salford was and decided to just go to the Manchester Cathedral instead. I hear the bells chime eleven times en route. It’s a beautiful day and not a cloud in the sky. The red brick buildings were glowing like blood in the sun.

After a quick spin around the grounds, I started heading in whichever direction looked most interesting. I never really got to anything of note, but it was fun to explore. I stumbled across a random little vintage clothing store and went in. As much as I would’ve loved to have purchased something just so I could say, “Oh I got this at a hole-in-the-wall thrift store in Manchester,” there really wasn’t anything I wanted, at least not for those prices. Fail.

I came across the Hard Rock Cafe which normally wouldn’t even catch my attention, but the Manchester one might have some decent stuff inside. Maybe they have memorabilia from The Smiths, Stone Roses, Charlatans, Happy Mondays, Joy Division, Oasis, James, or any of the other iconic Mancunian bands. I don’t go in though.

I got some good pics of the Christmas market and of random buildings, but nothing to get super excited about. My photo shoot two days ago in South Kensington London was much more productive. While I’m trying to figure out which way my hotel is, I hear the bells chime twelve times. I pass by China Town and by the Monkey Bar. I’ve never been there but I know it’s very close to the hotel. Within five minutes I’m back in my room. Fifty minutes before I meet Frank in the lobby. I’m killing time now going between the two music video channels, both of which are having Top Christmas songs countdowns. Wham is on now.

The plan is to catch the last train from Liverpool back to Piccadilly at 11pm but more realistically I think we’ll be getting the first train in the morning, the 3am, especially if we win. Last time Chuck and his mates took us out after a game we ended up break dancing on a lighted disco floor at 3am.

Well…. we made it to Liverpool with no problem, even though we had to stand the entire way on the train. Thankfully most of the riders were wearing Liverpool red rather than City blue. When we got off the train Frank noticed Elvis Costello sitting at the Costa coffee cafe in the station. He looked exactly how you’d expect him to look. I took that as a good sign for today’s game. Not sure why.

We go out and join the queue for the cabs and did our customary thing of looking for other people in Liverpool jerseys and asking them if they wanted to share a cab to Anfield Stadium. Elvis was our first choice. We found a couple of Kuwaiti guys instead. I’d never met anyone from Kuwait but they were really friendly and hated Manchester City and their owner, billionaire Sheikh Mansour bin Zaved Al Nahvan of the UAE. They paid for our cab and wouldn’t let us chip in, very nice indeed.

We did a little shopping before the game, I bought a bootleg shirt from the hole in the wall place for six pounds, as is my custom. Frank buys stuff from the official club store which is way more expensive but the money does go to the club, so he’s doing his part funding the purchases of thirty-five million pound gangly, clumsy strikers that look like soft-core porn stars you see on Cinemax. (see above)

Our seats were in the famous Kop end of the stadium. The name comes from the German “Kopf,” meaning “Head.” Back in the day there were no seats, it was standing room only and it got very tight in there. And rowdy. And loud. And sometimes dangerous. This is what The Kop was like during the Beatles heyday, before the game even started. The Kop can be very intimidating to visiting teams and the Kopites are what the Oakland Raider fans in the Black Hole or the Bleacher Creatures in New York strive to be. They don’t come close.

Nowadays it’s a little more civil but we relished the chance to take our place in history as official Kopites. Once they played “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and we had a sing along with 45,000 other fans in red, Frank finally admitted that we’d made it.

The game was good, bad, and ugly. Manchester dominated the first half and scored first. The boisterous crowd fell deathly silent in the 30th minute, except for a tumultuous roar coming from the far corner where everyone was wearing a girly shade of blue. Somehow Manchester scored off of a corner kick, I think it got redirected off of a shoulder but no one could argue that they deserved to be up. It looked as if we’d never even get a shot off, much less score a goal, but somehow a horrible shot got deflected in the net by a Manchester defender and we went into halftime tied. At that point I would’ve been thrilled for the draw against the undefeated Blues.

The second half was a completely different story. We dominated possession and finally started getting some chances. The best part about that was that Liverpool was shooting at the goal we were sitting directly behind. We had the best seats in the house. Manchester couldn’t stop our midfielders but we never quite finished our attacks. Manchester brought on their highly controversial Italian striker Balotelli, who’s as famous for his wonder-goals as he is for his bizarre haircuts, temper tantrums, and setting his house on fire by shooting off fireworks from inside.

He’s only twenty-one and has enormous potential but his temper is legendary and now opposing players know how to push his buttons. He came on halfway through the second half and eighteen minutes later he got his second yellow card and was sent to the showers. I’m not sure how much he got paid for those 18 minutes but I’m sure it’s too much. He broke down a door in the dressing room out of frustration, another fine is coming his way I’m sure.

Even with a man advantage for the last ten minutes, Liverpool couldn’t quite get one in the net. That was mainly because the Manchester goalie, who is also the England keeper, played out of his mind and pulled some amazing saves out of his ass. When the final whistle blew both teams were somewhat pleased with the draw. It was a fantastic game to watch nonetheless.

That should’ve been the end of a long day but it was just the start. We met my friend Chuck and Frank’s twizzler-loving friend Aaron after the game by the famous Shankly statue, and made our way back in town, stripping down every minute of the game and what we should’ve done differently. I thought they should have brought on Craig Bellamy but it turns out that he told the coach that he was too upset to play because his dear friend Gary Speed committed suicide that day. Understandable.

Aaron had to catch a train down to London so we had a couple of quick pints at the White Star pub in Lime Street Station. We checked, but Elvis had left the building. Chuck’s mate Doug showed up and then another guy Steve. A night for the bulls. Frank and I suggested we find a cheaper place, maybe somewhere with food, but they only listened to half of our request.

We went to the student bar, The Flute, but it was not happening. Sunday night is not a good night for that place. We had our obligatory one drink while we watched Barcelona get shut out on television and then walked down to another pub.

More discussion of the squad followed as well as another break-down of how each and ever player performed and who the ultimate striking partner for Suarez should be. We all thought Lucas was simple brilliant as a defensive midfielder. The experts agreed and named him Man of the Match.

Frank and I begged for food and we finally got our wish, a dirty pizza slash kebab joint where you could get a regular pizza for just 3.50. Not a slice mind you, an entire small pizza. We super-sized to the large, which was only 5 quid. We inhaled it and then continued our journey down the road to Hannah’s pub. Hannah’s had a power outrage so everything was dark except for a single candle on each table and a few along the bar. It looked too much like a seance so we took off for a much livelier place, the Shipping Forecast, via the Swan, of course.

More drinks came and I was struggling to keep up. I’m always the slowest drinker with Chuck and his mates and I really should know better than getting into a round with them. I’m usually half way done with my pint when they’re ready for the next round so they’ll tease me until I chug what’s left. Next time I really need to do bottles rather than pints. It’s only slightly less beer, but that little bit might save my ass.

For some reason someone ordered Strawberry beer, so there were glasses of that in front of just Frank and I. I’m guessing the guys ordered those as a joke, but we drank them, like the well-trained monkeys that we are. I think at the end of the night I was trying to introduce Liverpool to Pickleback shots but no one was onboard. They were cool with the shot of Jameson, but skeptical of the pickle juice chaser. I felt like Marty McFly when he was trying to explain his guitar solo to the horrified kids at the 1955 Enchantment Under the Sea Dance.

The last train is at 11pm so we head back to the train station at the last second and they throw us on. The train was packed but we managed to find seats. The carriage was full of drunk Man City fans and they were having the time of their lives. They were still drinking, smoking pot, dancing around, and singing Manchester songs. I tried my best to sleep, but every time I closed my eyes, everything started spinning. I hate to think how bad I’d be if we didn’t have that pizza.

Frank wasn’t feeling well at all, he looked green and his eyes were glazing over. I couldn’t look at him without feeling more sick. That hour train ride seemed like seventeen.  I only have two good memories of the train ride. One was of one of the drunk Mancs trying to climb into the overhead storage rack and falling out onto the floor with a massive thud. The other was going by where the infamous Hacienda night club/live music venue used to be. I was excited to see that. Madchester.

I don’t remember us getting home but we must’ve stopped by Tesco Express because I have a bag from there in my room and some random half-eaten snacks. I think I fell right asleep and even though that 8am wake-up call came way too early, I don’t feel that bad. Out of all the nights I’ve spent with Chuck since I met him in 1999, this is BY FAR the best I’ve ever felt the morning after, only slightly nauseous and a headache on the side.

I took some trusty-rusty Advil gel caps and downed a bottle of water so I think the headache will be done by the time I shower, shave, and watch the highlights of the game on the telly. Having a freshly shaven face gives the illusion to the passengers that I was a good boy the night before and they’re getting me at my best.

It wasn’t the ideal result for the team yesterday, but the night was just fantastic. The best part was that I got to have it on a layover so I’m getting paid for all of it. It’s trips like this that really make me praise my job and wonder why I’d ever give it up to do anything else.

Best. Airport. Bar. Ever

I actually planned a five-hour layover in London Stansted airport on my way to Austria for the sole purpose of going to the famous bar at the Radisson SAS Hotel right outside the airport. I was going to have to go through some airport in some city in some country in order to get to Graz, but when I looked at all my options, Stansted was the obvious choice.

The tiny, low-fare carrier-dominated airport which is way too north of London to realistically be called a “London” airport had one thing none of the other airports had, a thirteen-meter tall wine tower.

You expect to see stylish, gimmicky features such as that in flashy places like Vegas or New York, but not in some random regional airport that even some Londoners can’t point out on a map.

I heard about it though and I went straight over after I got off my flight from JFK. I was worried that the “airport” hotel wasn’t really that close to the airport, just maybe in the vicinity. Some JFK airport hotels are a ten minute van ride away. This wasn’t like that though. I walked outside the terminal that was about the same size as my high school gymnasium and walked maybe 40 meters. Then I was there.

The ultra modern hotel’s lobby did not disappoint and in the center of everything was the fabled wine tower with one its angels doing her thing, flipping and climbing her way to the very top of the tower. I later learned what a treat it is to see the angel fly so high, the cheapest bottles are at the bottom and the most expensive are at the very top. That is just brilliant planning on their part. I was planning on ordering a random bottle near the top, not caring if it was red or white or blue or French or Chilean or from some hick’s little slice of bayou in Louisiana. When I heard the prices I realized that my budget caused the angel to actually bend down to retrieve the bottle, while standing firmly on the ground that is. So I was thankful there were some Chinese businessmen in the house that had a corporate credit card. That saved me some precious poundage.

I had over three hours to kill and I had the best time all by myself just watching the show. Not only was the acrobatic girl fun to watch, the patrons were as well. Everyone was taking photos and videos and you really felt like that was THE place to be in England that Monday afternoon. Even the stuffy ol’ businessmen watched liked starry-eyed children at the circus.

It was so surreal. If I drove just two minutes in any direction I’d see rolling green hills with little bushy sheep but not in the oasis of the Radisson.

I just sat and watched the scene. I wrote in my journal and got more than a little bit drunk before I continued my journey to where my holiday was supposed to start. If anyone has to pass through England to get to a European destination, for God’s sake, forget the bland insanity of Heathrow and go through Stansted instead.

Down Time

I haven’t been writing a lot in my blog because I only feel inspired to write about airline stuff when I’m actually flying.  When I’m off for a while, the airlines and the job are the last thing on my mind.  A few people have given me shit about that so this entry is about how much I love not flying.

And this is why I haven’t been flying.  In April and May I held a schedule that went to Tokyo Haneda.  Most of my trips in April cancelled due to the radiation and in May they cancelled due to the extremely light flight loads.  June was an on-call month so July is the first time since March that I’m really having to fly.  I’m not going to lie, it’s been wonderful.  True, I had to sacrifice my vacation for 2012 to get paid for all the cancelled trips this Spring, but it was worth it to live like a desperate housewife for two months.

I’ve discovered in these last few weeks that I can very easily spend days at a time in my house all by myself.  I’ll get into a habit of editing photos, printing photos, framing photos, working on my book, playing video games, chatting with people worldwide on the internet.  For awhile I’d only go outside to lay out in the backyard for an hour and then come right back in.  I wouldn’t even put on a bathing suit, just boxer briefs.  No one seemed to mind.  I don’t really shower or shave during this time but no one is around to complain. All this month people have commented on how tan and healthy I look.  The secret?  Being a creepy recluse.

So I figure I got a little glimpse of what it’ll be like when I finally win the lottery.  I thought I’d get bored without a job but I found out that’s not true at all.  I can keep myself busy with all my projects and Call of Duty fills in the gaps. I think that’s why I want to win the lottery so badly, not for the riches, but just for the leisure time it’d offer.

Now I’m back to a normal routine though.  I get to come home twice a month for five or six days each time.  The first day is usually spent doing nothing.  After sleeping in hotel rooms on layovers and then in a bunk bed at the crash pad in New York, it’s so nice to just lounge around in a big house, all by myself… finally. Sleeping in a king sized bed is a treat you cannot fully appreciate until you spend the majority of your nights in the top bunk of a bunk bed with several other people in the room, or in a hotel bed that you just know hasn’t been cleaned as well as you’d like.

After a day or two of being anti-social I’ll usually find out what my friends are up to and the rest of the evenings will be spent with them.  I’ll never go to bed before 3am and never wake up before noon. I’ll always make sure I do something with my Mom as well, last night was Olive Garden.

Today seven friends and I are heading down to the Guadalupe River for a weekend of decadence.  We have a rent house on the water and enough food, drink, and accessories to last us a full week, even though we’ll just be there two nights.  Two of the people going I went to Kindergarten with. These people are very important to me and I always make sure I see them every time I come home. Pals.

The party will end Monday morning and I’ll have to immediately head back to the airport and catch a flight to New York JFK.  I’ll sleep for a couple of hours in the Quiet Room and then sign in for my trip to Zurich that evening and just like that, it’s back to reality!  Twelve days in a row of flying and then I get another little Austin vacation July 24-29. That’s how it goes, you cram as much as you can into your time at home, including doing nothing time.  You cram as much as you can into your layovers abroad. In between work trips I usually have about twenty hours in NYC so I’ll make sure I see my friends there for dinner, a movie, or drinks.  It just never stops.  Ever. I’m not sure it ever will, until I win the lottery.

Then you try to think of a way to actually enjoy your flying benefits, maybe plan a trip to Egypt like I’m trying to do right now. Friends and family in other cities want you to come visit and don’t understand when you say it’s hard to find the time.  Yeah, we may only work 15-18 days out of the month but when you take into consideration all the commuting time and alone time you need to decompress, you really don’t have that much time to fly somewhere else, especially when you just want to be at home in your house that you’re spending a lot of money on.

Besides, on your days off being at an airport is the last place you want to be. Being on an airplane sounds like torture.

I still haven’t figured out a way to date anyone living like this.  I’m not in Austin enough to date anyone here.  I’m not in New York enough to date anyone there. Even if all my trips were to one city, I wouldn’t be there enough to see someone there either.  I get why stewardesses have a guy/girl in every city.  I don’t have that, but I can see the benefits.

My last girlfriend was a flight attendant and that’s as good as it gets unless your partner has money and you don’t have to fly a full schedule. You can reasonably date someone if you’re lucky enough to live in the city where you’re based, but if you’re a commuting flight attendant, forget about it, you’re doing to die alone. You aren’t even around enough to get a cat.

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?

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.

Straight Guy Lesson #15- New York City

My inexpensive, off-the-beaten-path, Must-See spots for food, drink, and entertainment for visitors to New York City.  You know the big landmarks and sites, so here are twenty-one things you should do after you cross those staples off your list.

1)  Museum of the Moving Image- Astoria Queens.  Interactive museum with a ton of movie and television memorabilia and props including Freddy Krueger’s glove and some Huxtable sweaters (the show was filmed next door.) There’s even a room that traces the history of video games, and you get to play with everything from Pong to Dance Dance Revolution!

2)  The major sporting events are obvious and all fantastic but US Open tennis shouldn’t be missed. Staten Island and Coney Island offer great minor league baseball experiences as well.  Catching basketball games at Rucker Park in Harlem is a one of a kind experience.  Before they went to the NBA, guys like Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Vince Carter, Dr. J, Stephon Marbury, Lamar Odom, and Ron Artest played picked up games at Rucker.  Some even come back to play at the height of their careers as NBA all-stars like Allen Iverson and Kobe Bryant.

3) Rock-n-Roll Karaoke at Arlene’s Grocery.  Lower East Side.  They certainly have their favorites so it’s hard to get on, but it’s still fun to be there.  Karaoke with a full band to back you up and a very energetic audience. You can live our your dream of being a God Rock for five minutes.  Celebs are seen there often.

4)  High Bar rooftop bar- great midtown views.  I usually nurse one drink for as long as I can and then head to somewhere cheaper.  Great for photos.  Also good rooftops- Hudson Terrace and Gramercy Park Hotel.

5)  Vazac’s Horseshoe Bar (7B)- indie dive bar in Alphabet City with a great jukebox and film/tv history (Godfather 2 and Sex and the City scenes.)  If the photo booth in the back is working, that’s must, if you can get past the hipsters playing Big Buck Hunter.

6)  Grimaldi’s Pizzeria-  It’s not just the pizza that’s fantastic.  Enjoy it after a nice walk/bike over the Brooklyn Bridge.  You can tell your friends that you left the city and you’ll seem edgy.

7)  The Frying Pan- outside on the water at Chelsea Piers.  Great place for drinks, first dates, meeting hundreds of young people, sunsets, and views of Manhattan. Oh yeah, you’re on a huge ship and the drinks are very reasonable.

8 )  Hudson RiverFlicks-  Forget Bryant Park.  Real New Yorkers know the best place to go for outdoor movies in the summer.  At Pier 54 they play better movies and have chairs. Show up on 14th Street before the sun goes down on  the Hudson River.

9)  Barcade- yes, just like it sounds.  It’s a bar and it’s an arcade with classic 80s games.  And yes, it is right where you thought it’d be, right in the middle of Williamsburg.

10) McSorley’s- Abe Lincoln and John Lennon had a beer here so you think you’re better than them?!?  Drinks come in pairs (both filled half way) in either light or dark but don’t hesitate when ordering, they run an efficient operation and don’t have time for questions or delays.  Get the cheese and crackers but breathe through your mouth in the bathroom.

11) White Horse Tavern- 11th Street and Hudson.  Famous in the 1950s and 60s for writers and musicians.  Dylan Thomas famously drank himself to death here and Jack Kerouac spent many alcoholic nights here as well. Other notable patrons: Bob Dylan, Hunter S. Thompson, Norman Mailer, Jim Morrison, and Allen Ginsberg (who once got thrown out for circling the room and chanting Hare Krishna.)

12) Tom’s Diner on 112th Street and Broadway near Columbia University.  First popular in Suzanne Vega’s song “Tom’s Diner” then immortalized as the facade for Monk’s Diner in Seinfeld.  The interior looks completely different from that used in the show so don’t get your hopes up.  Still though, you’ll be surprised how excited you get when you turn the corner and see that familiar neon sign. It’s a good random thing to check out and very close to the amazing cathedral of St. John the Divine.

13) If you’re a Led Zeppelin fan check out the Physical Graffiti buildings on 96 and 98 St. Marks Place near First Avenue.  It’s the facade they used for that album’s cover.  Even if you’re not a fan of the band you’ll recognized the building, there’s a second-hand clothing store called Physical Graffiti on the ground floor.  The song “Stairway to Heaven” was supposedly written about the apartment on the top floor, where their heroin dealer lived.  I’m not sure if that’s true but it makes sense.  Have a kick ass outdoor brunch across the street at Yaffa’s, but expect to be judged by your uber-cool, 22-year-old Israeli hipster waiter.

14) Astoria’s Bohemian Hall Beer Garden.  Traditional Bavarian beer garden just over the bridge in Queens, very near La Guardia.  It only seats 800 so get there early on a warm weekend afternoon.  If you’re still too scared to leave Manhattan then just go to Zum Schneider on Avenue C for a watered-down, indoor experience.

15) Fourth of July, spend the afternoon eating hot dogs and watching the freak show at Coney Island (if it’s still open) and then get yourself to a rooftop in the city for the fireworks.  Now they’re shot off on the West side of Manhattan so kiss up to your Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen friends to get that party invite. Warning: every other firework experience the rest of your life will seem somewhat lame after a rooftop party in NYC.

16) Art galleries in Chelsea. Yes, of course the Straight Guy loves Chelsea!  This is an obscenely cheap way to kill an afternoon and see some great art in every medium imaginable.  Often times the stuff you see in the cluster of galleries between 20th-27th Streets/10th-12th Avenue is better than what they have in the museums.  Try to go when the new cycle of exhibits are opening all over the neighborhood, lots of free drinks and food.  En route walk the High Line and stop by the Chelsea Hotel and try to figure out where exactly Sid killed Nancy.

17) The Bronx Zoo.  It’s a cliché and everyone knows about it but no one ever goes, same with the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Hit the gardens in April when the cherry blossoms are out. Yes, flowers and trees really do grow and thrive in NYC.

18) Shakespeare in the Parking Lot.  Lower East Side.  The most culture you can get on asphalt.  Admission is free.  Intermissions occur when someone needs to get their car out.  Only in New York.

19) Steinway and Sons Tour.  Astoria.  The manufacturer of arguably the best modern pianos in the world, offers a tour of its headquarters and factory, showing how the treasured instruments are made. Tours take place on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon from September through June. I actually haven’t done this one yet, but it sounds really cool.

20) East River Park- Lower East Side.  Fifty-seven acres along the East River for biking, soccer, tennis, jogging, baseball, football, barbecues, picnics, and general laziness.  The tennis courts are right on the water, in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge. Live music is performed at the amphitheater. The crowds go to Central Park for unnatural nature, you can come here and watch the dead bodies float by.

21) Marathon Day.  Don’t run it, it’s much more fun to attend a marathon party hosted by someone who lives on the race route.  Popular spots include balconies and fire escapes in the Upper East Side along First Avenue, though there are many options in Queens and Brooklyn as well.  If you’re banking on a photo finish get to Central Park and wait patiently.  I lived on Mile 19 for a while so I didn’t have to get up early to see all the action.  If you’re an early riser, get up and watch the start on the Verrazano Bridge, it’s amazing.

St. Patrick’s Day 2011 Tokyo

We’re about three hours away from landing at Tokyo Haneda, not too shabby. We’re flying right along the International Date Line.  I have no idea which side we’re on.  I have no idea what day it is.  I slept during my entire three-hour break.  It was fantastic.  My one and only passenger is still asleep.  I haven’t had to do anything for the entire flight.

There are three meal services to do up here in First Class between New York and Tokyo but I didn’t have to do a thing or cook a single meal other than the needy cockpit.  Well 3/4ths of them were needy, one was really nice and low maintenance. I just move the carts around in preparation for maybe working, but it never came to that. This is easy money.  Not only am I not having to do shit, we’re understaffed by two people so that will be an extra $270 in my pocket. Because of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami and subsequent nuclear power plant explosions, all the people who were supposed to work this trip didn’t show up.  They had to scramble to find minimum crew.  I didn’t care, I needed the hours.  What’s a little extra radiation? If I can’t be tan I may as well be green.

Now I have the last meal service ready to go along with the chocolate chip cookies which I baked to perfection.  Too bad no one will know anything about them because no one will eat them, not even I.  Unfortunately the strange blind man in 1J is coming back with us to New York the morning after tomorrow.  He only booked this flight to rack up some miles.  I guess he needs a few more long flights to retain his status of Executive Prick.

I liked him when he first got on, how could I not with him being the one and only First Class passenger? Me being overly nice was my eventual downfall.  When offering him the newspapers before take off I elaborated on each and every paper we had.  Usually I just say, “Paper today?”

No, I was going to make a point of providing excellent customer service so I did just that and said more about the papers we had than what was printed in the papers themselves.  I felt pretty good about how I presented them but the guy just glares in my general direction and says, “I’m blind!”  Oops.  I had no idea.  It looked like he had a lazy eye but it also looked like the other one was okay.  I apologized and he said it was fine but things would never be the same between he and I.  The worst part was while he was eating his meal (from coach), I was sitting in the empty seat/pod in front of him working on my bids.  I was facing backwards so that I could keep an eye on my cabin.  The man calls the Pursor over and complains that I’m staring at him while he’s eating and it makes him feel uncomfortable.  So I give up, is he blind or not?  I guess only when convenient.

The sun was down when we took off and has been down ever since.  It’ll never come up on this thirteen-hour flight.  It’s nearly 7pm in Tokyo and so the sun has set there as well.  I love it.  The other straight male flight attendant was bitching about it being dark the entire flight but I couldn’t be happier.  A sleeping passenger is a happy passenger.

One hour away.  My passenger is still sleeping though I’m not sure if he’s still blind or not.  I caught him reading his menu earlier.  We’re right above Sapporo and took a turn so that we’re now going straight south.  I’m looking forward to seeing a new hotel.  That’s always fun, especially in Japan where they usually have random things.  I’m also excited about being in a new city.  Tokyo and Narita are not the same thing at all.  That’s like saying Yonkers is the same as Manhattan. I already told my crew that my room is open for nightcaps when we get in.  One guy and one girl have already given me their RSVP.

NEXT DAY-  I’m trying to decide if I want to try to figure out the subway and go into downtown Tokyo.  I know I do but I’m really dragging my feet here.  Some of it is getting over a hangover from my room party last night.  It wasn’t a party so much as just having Kylie and Max over for drinks, music, and Uno.  At 4am we were all wasted and falling asleep on the floor.  I blame the physical exhaustion rather than the vodka.  We called it a night and everyone stumbled back to their rooms.

When I woke up at 9:30am I was still drunk.  When I woke up at 3pm I was still drunk.  The room is still spinning and it’s 5pm.  There could be an earthquake and I’ll probably not even realize it because I’ve been feeling the floor move all day.  WOW, while I was typing that sentence we really did have an earthquake.  The blinds started moving as if the window was open and a breeze was coming in.  Everything else just kinda shifted and slided for about 10 seconds.  A quick check with the USGS website confirmed the quake.  Ok, I may need to get out of here. I don’t want to be found in my underwear in rubble.

Back from my excursion into downtown Tokyo.  It was a little dicey for a while but I made it.   It had nothing to do with natural elements, it was all my own stupidity.  I’m glad I went out today.  Just the subway ride alone was worth it.  The people watching was out of this world.

It’s incredibly easy getting to downtown from here in Yokohama, even though it takes a long time if you’re on a local train.  I only had 600 yen and 440 of it was used to buy my ticket into town.  I figured I could find an ATM or charge my return ticket.  I wasn’t worried.

I got off at the lost stop- Shibuya, that famous place where they have the massive intersection where hundreds of people cross the street every single time the Walk sign comes on.  The first thing I do is cross with the masses and it feels electric.  This is already way better than that boring ol’ Narita layover.  Tokyo is pretty stimulating.

After I cross the street I try to figure out the best way to take a picture of the insanity.  I see there’s an enclosed walking bridge connecting the train station to another building across the street.  It has large glass windows and is three floors above ground.  That should work.  I go up there and get my photo along with thirty outtakes.  From there I just wander around the streets.  I go down little side streets and I go down busy boulevards with huge buildings and big colorful signs.

Everything is photo worthy.  Anything written in Japanese looks like it needs its picture taken. I got pictures of some restaurants, strip clubs, internet/karaoke combo stores, and then a series of a group of firefighters surrounding a building looking intense.  There were at least twenty of them and five fire trucks but no one ever saw smoke or fire, though we were all staring at the same building for half an hour.

I realized it’s St. Patrick’s Day but I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to pinch people in Japan. I’m not even sure if they know to wear green today. A see a few kids wearing green jeans but I think they wear those any day of the week. I doubt it’s a celebration of Irish Pride. Should I educate them on the phenomenon? I think I’d be cute to see more teens wearing, “Kiss Me I’m Irish” pins. None of the firemen are wearing green but they look like they’d get mad if I pinched them.

Along the way I looked for currency exchange places and ATMs.  I found no exchange places but many ATMs.  Most ATMs weren’t in English and the ones that were, didn’t seem to like my cards.  Uh-oh!

Eventually I realized that I wasn’t going to be able to get out any money.  There’s just no way.  That’s when the search for loose yen began.  I looked on the ground, I looked around over fifty vending machines, I even looked for some kind of fountain where people might throw in coins for luck.  I saw a band playing for change outside a train station and thought about just borrowing a little from them.  I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded if I left them a twenty-dollar bill. It almost came to that.

I had a few yen, enough for a kids ticket or a very short ride, like maybe to the next station.  At least I could buy a ticket to get into the station and get on a train. You can’t get onto a train without some sort of ticket to put into the machine. I decided to just do that and then I’d figure it out when I got back to my stop.  I went to the self-serve machine and put in the rest of my coins.  I got a ticket that would only let me exit a stop or two down the line, but that’s alright, I’ll just keep going even though I know I’ll have major problems later.  At least I’d be near the hotel before someone confronts me on this.  I couldn’t decide if it’d be better to claim out-of-town ignorance or say that I lost my ticket.  I practiced both scenes.

I spend most of the time on the train worrying about this and taking photos of all the Japanese men and women in their little white masks.  Looks like I accidentally got on a train car that’s supposed to be just for women.  It’s all pink and says “women only” but I’m not the only guy on here so I don’t worry about it.

When I get to my station I see that I’m the only one to get off the train.  It’s at a big mall and conference center so after it closes for the night, the area is a ghost town.  That’s a good thing.  I see an exit turnstile and it’s wide open.  There are a couple random people standing around but I don’t think they’re cops or Metro employees.  I take a deep breath and just walk through quickly, but not suspiciously fast.  The once-opened doors start to close on me but I slide through them.  Some kind of bad beeping and red light flashing occur so I just keep going and look confused in case anyone is looking.

There are several exits for the station but I take the very first one I come to.  I run up the escalator and don’t look back until I’m above ground and out of the station.  Thank God.  That could have been a nasty situation, especially if no one spoke English.  I had a feeling it’d be ok but at the same time, it could’ve ended badly and I knew that.  I was very thankful that my exit was a relative non-event.  Next time, bring yen and lot’s of it.  Now I have six hours to kill before my 4:40am pick up.  Thank God for free internet and March Madness.

Straight Guy Lesson #8- Flight Attendant Interview Gone Wrong

What could be worse than the Flight Attendant Interview?  Well, what’s worse than dealing with those questions we’ve all heard a million times is sitting on a bus in between two people when one is giving the other the Flight Attendant Interview.

I knew from the second I sat down that the young blonde was a flight attendant, I saw a bidsheet sticking out of her bag.  There was only one empty seat on the M60 bus leaving La Guardia and it was right between this girl and this older guy.  He was probably thirty-something but still a lot older than this girl.  I guess they were already talking before I got on, so immediately I was right in the middle of their conversation.  I tried to ignore it but that was just impossible since they were both leaning in towards each other, right in my lap. I wanted to pass the time talking on the phone but it was in my front pocket and I couldn’t get to it because the guy was all up in my bidness.

They chatted for ten minutes about where they were from and where they’ve lived and finally, inevitably, it came out that for the last five glorious months she’s been a flight attendant for Delta Airlines.  Then the questions came like an avalanche.  What is your route?  How long do you get to stay at the city you fly to?  Do they put you up at a hotel?  Do you get to fly for free?  Have you almost ever crashed?  Do you see many people trying to join the mile high club?  blah blah blah.  I’ve heard it all before and can seriously answer the questions in my sleep even before the person asks them.

I really felt for the girl.  It pains me to hear someone go through that but the terrible part was that she was so new, young, and cheery that she actually enjoyed answering all these questions.  I was horrified!  I give one word answers but she was expanding on hers.  The whole interview should have taken seven minutes and forty-three seconds if she did it right.

To make it even worse, she didn’t even answer the questions correctly!  She’d give an answer that was glorious or horrible about the job and it wouldn’t even be true.  It might be randomly true one time but if you’ve been flying for more than five months, you’d know that it’s completely, totally untrue over the course of a career.

I wanted to jump in and correct her on certain things but I knew it wasn’t any of my business.  Actually that isn’t really what stopped me.  I have no problem butting into that conversation.  What stopped me was that I could tell the guy was really into the girl by the way he nervously and uncomfortably tried to ask more and more questions to keep the conversation going.  He seemed like a nice guy and me butting in might disrupt the little thing they had going.  She was obviously into their exchange so why do I need to get involved?  He might see me jumping in as some kind of cock-blocking and I don’t want to do that.  She, being a sweet as pie girl from South Carolina, probably would’ve started including me in the conversation and might even start asking me a bunch of questions and ignoring him.

No, I did the right thing by not saying anything but I would’ve given anything for an IPod to suddenly materialize on my head.  The more interest he showed, the more cocky she got.  I thought she was getting kinda boastful when she talked about how cool it was to have a morning macchiato at the Trevi Fountain and then dinner on a rooftop in Manhattan in the same day.  Of course it is!  Everyone in the world knows that would be brilliant, but you don’t need to sound so proud of yourself.  I’ve been guilty of thinking how bad ass it is to see a soccer game in Milan and the very next day catching US Open tennis in New York.  I catch myself in these thoughts but would never in a million years say them out loud.  I don’t want to be that guy.

Still though, he was totally into everything she was saying and completely validating her superiorness.  What annoyed me the most, even more than the airline lies, was when she started dissing New York City because it’s not acceptable to go out in scrubby clothes like it is in Charleston.  I can’t believe I was able to hold me tongue!  She thought it was just the coolest thing in the world that you can go to the beach all day and then go to a bar in your flip-flops and no one would say a word.  She didn’t understand why New York wasn’t like that and that everyone spends at least four hours getting ready for a night out, even to the local bar, dressed to the nines.  Where the fuck is this girl hanging out?  Has she never set foot downtown?  Or in Brooklyn?  I defy you to find someone at Max Fish who doesn’t look like they woke up in a gutter and then dragged themselves up to the bar.

Yeah she’s new to New York but I think after Week 2 I’d found some low-key, hometown dives.  You can walk into a bar in flip-flops and a ratty t-shirt in every single US city I can think of.  That’s not exclusive to Charleston, South Carolina.  The guy (who was born in Jersey, moved to Pennsylvania, then Arizona, and now New York) kept his mouth shut and didn’t even challenge this notion at all.  I was sweating and squirming in my seat.  He must have really wanted to screw her.  Even if I really REALLY wanted to win over a hot young stewardess on a bus, I still would’ve corrected her on this outlandish misconception.  Enough is enough!

I mean just by throwing out the names of a couple of neighborhoods or bars that are slack like that, he might have bought himself several dates with this girl.

“Oh, you need to go down to the East Village, Lower East SIde, or even out to Brooklyn then.  I could show you a ton of amazing places where the people are real and down to earth, and wearing flip-flops with unwashed hair.  My favorite place is (insert specific bar here, preferably somewhere obscure that she can’t find on her own and will need you as an escort)”

“Oh wow, that would be awesome!  I’d love to check out some places like that.  Places like in Charleston, South Carolina.”

Boom!  Just like that they have plans and you know she’ll be excited about it.  It doesn’t even have to come off like a date, just a local showing a nice transplant where to have a good time.  I really hope that all went down after I got off the bus.  I seriously doubt it by the way he just kept letting her talk and talk and talk but who knows, maybe he grew a pair and popped the question.

Straight Guy Lesson #6- The Flight Attendant Interview

The Flight Attendant Interview

Every non-airline person has always wanted to know certain things about the flight attendant job and lifestyle.  This can work for you in some rare cases, but usually it’ll lead to annoyance.  When meeting someone for the first time and the subject of employment comes up, pray that you’re not the first flight attendant they’ve ever met. If you are, they’ll take their big opportunity to ask all the questions they’ve ever wanted to know and they’ll shoot them off at you like an AK47.

The script goes something like this… Stranger in bar asks you, the aloof drunk muttering to himself, your name.  They don’t understand what you say, they just nod and smile followed by, “What do you do for a living?”  You cringe and mumble, “flight attendant”.  Their ears perk up.  At this point you know you’re either going to hear them bitch about how their last flight went horribly wrong, or you’re getting the dreaded Flight Attendant Interview.  You pray for a lost luggage story.  The stranger’s eyes widen and without a moment’s hesitation, out comes:

Are you gay?

Do you get to fly all over the world for free?

What airline do you work for?

What’s your route?

How long do you get to stay at the city you fly to?

Do they put you up at a hotel?

Do they pay for your meals when you’re away?

Do you hook up with all the stewardesses?

Are you sure you’re not gay?

Can you hook me up with a stewardess?

Can you get her to wear the uniform?

Do you like to be called a steward or a flight attendant or what?

How does your schedule work?

Do you have a boy/girl in every city?

How long have you done the job?

Where are you stationed? (yeah right, it’s like the military)

Did you have to do some kind of training or schooling?

What’s the worst thing that’s happened?

Have you ever had really bad turbulence?

Have you almost crashed and died a gruesome death?

Seriously, you’re not gay?

Do you see many people trying to join the mile high club?

Have you joined the mile high club?

How might I join the mile high club?

Do you have Buddy Passes?

Can I have a Buddy Pass?

What was your Major before you failed out of community college?

After going through that song and dance a few times you’ll just stop asking people what they do because you don’t want the question returned.  When someone asks you, just say you’re unemployed, it’s easier for everyone.  Better yet, buy a voice recorder and keep all the answers to the Flight Attendant Interview recorded and ready to go.  If someone you don’t care about starts in with the interview, just push play on the recorder, go to the bar to get yourself another drink while they listen to all the answers.  By the time you’re back they’ll know everything they ever wanted to know and you can then talk about something less painful.

Straight Guy Lesson #5- Hotel Rooms

Hotel rooms- your home away from home and little slice of space just for you.

If you’re a full-time flyer then you may spend between 60-100 nights a year in a hotel room, depending on the type of trip you fly.  If you have seven two-days trips each month then that ends up being around 84 nights at a hotel each year.  If you only do five three-day Europe trips then you’ll start at the 60 mark.  That’s before you pick up a single trip, and everyone starting out picks up at least one extra trip a month.  So roughly a fourth of your year/life will be spent in hotel rooms. Learn to love them.

The airlines have promised you certain things when it comes to accommodation on the job.  You’re not supposed to be on the bottom floor for safety reasons.  The hotel should have food available 24/7, or at least very near food.  You’re always given the option of a non-smoking room, which however, may be a floor that allows smoking.  Those rooms are annoying, like the smoke knows to stop at your door and not go in.  That’s about it as far as the hotel’s responsibility to you.  As long as the hotel meets those criterium then they’re an option for the Hotel Board to decide on.  The range of hotels in staggering.  For the most part it’s an inverse relationship.  The nicer the country, the more meager the hotel.  The shittier the country, the more luxurious the hotel.  London is a closet.  Port Au Prince is a palace.

You’ll find that some of your crew members are way too particular when they request their room.  It’s ridiculous and it’s embarrassing.  I feel so sorry for anyone that has to deal with pilots and flight attendants, mostly van drivers and hotel staff.  You must really be a masochist to voluntarily put up with that hell.  I don’t feel as bad for airport security, we give them a hard time but they usually deserve it.  Some crew members don’t want to be on a floor too high up because there’s no water pressure.  The low floors have too much street noise.  The rooms near ice machines and elevators are too noisy.  The rooms near the microwave room are also too noisy.  In fact they don’t want to even be on the floor that has the microwave because it all smells like weird food, especially if Asian airlines stay at the hotel.  It’s like they have a particular room in mind and won’t quit until they get it. Airline people get a little too comfortable and start taking things for granted.  It’s the unbearable lightness of being.

Even though all rooms are different you’ll try to keep a basic set-up and routine.  We crave structure and are all creatures of habit.  You’ll keep your suitcase in same place in every single room.  Some people utilize the closet and the drawers.  I don’t bother with the drawers, it’s just too much work to unpack and then repack a few hours later. It’s easier living out of the suitcase.  When we get in we all set up the bathroom how we want it.  We have the toiletries laid out just so and our uniform hung neatly in the closet.  Some people have a cleaning ritual that includes putting on their own sheets and pillowcases brought from home.  The hotel sheets get washed so I’m ok with those but the comforters or duvets are ignored so those are pretty nasty and my naked body will never touch them.

Ignorance really is bliss.  Don’t think too deeply on what may or may not be in your room or look too closely to the refilled body wash/shampoo bottles.  At least the little bottle of mouthwash is factory sealed.  Ignore that undercover news report you saw online about how the glasses get cleaned in hotel rooms, sometimes with the same rag that was just used to wipe off the toilet.  Never look under the bed!  Some people use the shower cap as a condom for the remote control and phone receiver.  To test for bed bugs put the bar soap on the bed and check back with it later.  Apparently bed bugs head right for that.  I’m not sure if that’s true, it may be one of those tricks you use to fool yourself into thinking everything is just fine. One of my favorite layover games is to check for the one maid hair that’s found in every shower.  It’s like playing Where’s Waldo.  It may take you half an hour but that hair is always in there somewhere, sometimes on the ceiling.  A word to the wise, some people use the coffee makers to clean their panty hose.  Gross.  I sometimes use it to reheat food or warm a can of soup.  I’ve also found that if your room has one of those fancy pant-pressers you can use that to make a pseudo grilled cheese sandwich.

You’ll do all your dirty stuff in a hotel room, the messy things you don’t want to do at home, like dying your hair or having period sex.  I used to try to keep the room as clean as possible, as a favor to the maid.  I try to be a team player.  I put a liner in the trash can which I’m sure helps a lot.  I tried to leave the room cleaner than I found it but then I heard that rooms left like that don’t really get cleaned that well by the maids.  Now I’ll trash their room on purpose just so it HAS to be cleaned.

You usually get a little fridge in your room but if you’re staying somewhere cold you can use the ledge outside the window as a fridge extension.  It really frees up some space, especially if your fridge is crammed full of useless minibar items that cost way too much.  In some places, like Caracas, you can sometimes get free porn if you clip your ID to the cable going into the TV.  Most hotels are onto that one because some idiot flight attendant left his ID behind when he checked out and then had to call the hotel for someone to get it.  How do you explain why your ID is clipped to the back of a TV unless something is up?  Every now and then your porn channel will come in unscrambled.  If that happens then watch it for as long as you can because once you turn the channel, it’s gone forever.  If you turn back then it’ll be scrambled again and the free porn will be nothing but a distant memory.  Some hotels have secret hiding places that crew members will use to leave goodies for each other.  The Los Angeles Bonaventure was famous for that.  The hotel is circular and the far wall of the hotel rooms is curved, the one made entirely of windows.  Because the ceiling doesn’t exactly fit flush to the curved wall, there are little gaps where you can reach up if you stand on the desk.  People leave all sorts of things up there: porn, minis of liquor, wine, People magazine.

You’ll find that spending so much time in hotels will eliminate certain chores you have to do at home, like shopping for toilet paper, shampoo, hand lotion, towels, and shower curtains.  If you tell the maid that your significant other LOVES the way you smell in their lotion, she likely to hook you up with dozens of bottles.  Score!

The worst feeling is checking out of the hotel and realizing you left food in the fridge (or on the ledge outside the window.)  That precious food has probably been all around the world with you and you were so looking forward to having that on the flight back home.  You might need to leave a post-it note on the door to remind yourself.

So make your room your own and learn to love living out of a suitcase.  It may be one of the few things you really have control over when you’re on the job.  Try to see a layover as a much-needed break from reality rather than being stuck away from all that are near and dear to you.

Straight Guy Lesson #4-Probation

Every major airline has a probationary period that starts after you complete your training when you get “on the line.”  During this hellish time (usually a few months) you can be fired for absolutely anything without an explanation or apology.  One day you’ll be working, the next day you’ll be back wherever you came from.  During Probation you will be scared shitless anytime anything goes remotely wrong, no matter how ridiculous or insignificant.  Any time you have to tell a passenger that you’ve run out of their first meal choice or that they won’t make their connecting flight is told with such unspeakable dread.  Any disagreement with a fellow crew member is reason to toss and turn all night long.  You hold your tongue no matter what people say to you or how horribly they treat you.  Like a slave, you just turn the other cheek and take whatever is thrown at you. Thank you Sir may I have another?!  You’ll feel like you have no soul or backbone.  In your mind you have all your witty comebacks and how exactly you’re going to tell the passengers off, but just file those away for a while.  You’ll have plenty of time to be a jerk right back to the passengers later on, but for now, you have to play ball.

You may find yourself allowing three hours travel time to get to the airport when it normally takes forty-five minutes.  You cannot be too careful.  That day when you get off of probation is circled in red on your calendar. Your life will change that day, especially if you work for an airline that has a union.  Once the union covers you then it’s damn near impossible to get fired, no matter how hard you try.  Feel free to use all the witty retorts and give all the attitude you wish after you make it off of probation.

Just in case you think you may get fired though, here are some Must Dos that you need to accomplish ASAP. Once you’ve completed this list then you’ve pretty much done the best things you can do as a flight attendant and you can hold your head up high as you’re being fired for gross incompetence or whatever they say you did or did not do.  You’ll also have the staple photographs and scars that prove that you were at one time a flight attendant.

#1  Have your picture taken sitting in the Captain’s seat

#2  Have your picture taken standing in an engine

#3  Have your picture taken lying inside an overhead bin

#4  Join the Mile High Club

#5  Stay out all night on a layover and show up for pick up without sleep or shower

#6  Hook up on a layover with local

#7  Show up to the airport on your days off and just fly somewhere random, just because you can

#8  Sit in the cockpit for either take-off or landing

#9  Hook up on a layover with another crew member

#10  When you ferry a flight (no passengers, just crew) sit on a plastic tray at the front of the aircraft in the aisle and “aisle surf” during take off.  Hopefully you’ll be on a wide body aircraft with two aisles and you can race a friend.  Gambling will occur, not only on who wins the race but also on who bleeds the most.  Fun times for everyone.

#11 Upgrade someone just for the hell of it

#12 Get an oven rack burn/scar.  No one will believe you were a flight attendant until you have scar lines on your forearms.  In fact, burn off all your fingerprints as well, just like a real flight attendant.

Straight Guy Lesson #3- Other Straight Flight Attendants

The dynamics of your relationships with other straight male flight attendants are very complicated as well.  It’s a fascinating case study.  We are a small fraternity of brothers and it seems every year you’re losing members to the other side, sometimes members you’d never think that would fall to the dark side.  Sometimes our most successful members put in a trade request.  Ultimately, everyone gets their trade request, no matter how much their parents, best friends, or ex-lovers object.  For the most part all the straight guys get along really well.  It’s welcoming to have another dude around you can talk to about straight guy stuff for a couple of days.

If you’re at a base long enough you’re going to hear about every other straight guy at the base and people will be shocked that you don’t all know each other.  “What?!  Of course you know Kevin!  He’s straight too, slept with half the base.  Really funny guy.  Yeah, you have to know him.”  Of course that’s as silly as asking a black guy if he knows this other guy Ty that also lives in Atlanta.  “Oh I’m sure you know him, he’s black too.”

Some flight attendant bases are massive and you can go years without meeting everyone.  After 12 years I still meet people for the first time when I get on a plane to work a trip.  You sure hear about the other straight guys though, especially if they’re single and active.  It’s always funny at that moment when you finally meet another Straight for the first time.  You know so much about him.  You’ve been hearing about him for years and you know about all the other flight attendants he’s slept with and you probably have a couple in common.  That’s usually a good bonding point and will be discussed later in the bar over some whiskey drinks and Sportscenter.  Of course whoever got there first will have bragging rights for all time.  A word of advice though, when you start laughing about a girl you had a fun layover with and you know that he had also been with her, make sure she was just a fling and not a serious girlfriend.  Nothing is more awkward than making comments about a girl and then finding out that your new straight friend used to be engaged to her but she broke it off at the last minute.  Trust me.

I love meeting the other straight ones.  It’s like meeting a long-lost sibling or a unicorn.  There may be a little competition on the plane or at the bar to win a girl’s favor but after you’ve been flying for a few years you really don’t care if you win or not.  It’s just fun being a guy with other guys and talking about guy stuff.

There’s another faction out there though, but thank god they’re becoming extinct.  I haven’t seen them in years but they’re out there for sure.  They are the straight homophobes that wear the Superman pin on their uniform.  I noticed this once when I was brand new and asked the guy if he was a Superman fan.  He looked at me with an intense seriousness and dragged me into the galley so he could tell me about his secret organization, much like the Masons or Stone Cutters.  He said that the S Superman pin meant something much more important than liking some silly comic book character.  The S meant that he was a Straight and that was how he let the world know that he wasn’t just another “faggot flight attendant.”  I was shocked.  I figured most people could tell by talking to a person for a few minutes if they were a Straight or a Gay but I guess he needs a shiny blue and red pin to help them out.  He said us Straights need to stick together and that he’d put a Superman pin in my mailbox at the airport so I could join the club (cult).  I think he was planning a revolution or something because this was all done very hush-hush with constant checks around us to make sure no one was listening in.  I guess we can’t let the Gays catch wind of this!

I’m not sure how he thought everyone would instinctively know that the S pin meant that he was straight though.  I didn’t get that part.  I was apparently being groomed for fast entry into the club and I didn’t even know what it meant.  What chance would anyone else have?  Lots of flight attendants wear pins on their jackets or aprons during the service and no one bats an eye.  So watch out for those guys.  They are the Scientologists of the airline industry and completely whacked out.  I think most of them have quit the job once they realized they just weren’t going to eliminate the Gays from the flight attendant profession.  There are still a few stragglers though, I hear stories from the underground.  They usually hang out with the pilots on layovers.

And so it begins…OKC 7:38am

When I saw an overloaded business guy running OJ-style through the Oklahoma City airport with all his carry-ons dangling from every limb, my first reaction was to laugh at the idiot who overslept.  I know he didn’t get stuck in traffic, it’s 7:30am on a Sunday morning and there wasn’t a car on the road when we came here.  I saw more tumbleweeds than cars on the road.  He had no one to blame but himself so therefore he gets pointed and laughed at.  Then, with a sudden chill in a moment of clarity, I realized that maybe he’s trying to catch the flight to DFW before mine.  If he didn’t catch it then he’d be put on my flight and it’s pretty full already so an extra body might mean that I won’t get on.  He could make all the difference.  He might be the Tipping Point.  If I don’t get on then I won’t make the one and only flight from Dallas to JFK.  If I miss that then I won’t make the flight I have to work to Zurich at 6pm.  If I miss that trip then I can say goodbye to $800.  All of a sudden I wasn’t laughing at the poor schmuck, I was helping him out.  I had an insane urge to run along side him and motivate him, giving him cups of water, encouraging him, or putting him down like a drill sergeant ala Full Metal Jacket, whatever it took to get him to move faster.  I didn’t do that but I picked up my pace and followed closely, sending out nothing but good vibes and little prayers.  My airline’s gates are the very last ones in the terminal and it seemed that’s just where he was heading.  Luckily he turned off at another airline just before mine and promptly got into a fight with the agent because the door was closed yet the plane was still sitting there at the gate.  I don’t sympathize with the passengers very often but I really don’t get why they don’t just run down, crack the door, let the straggler on, and go about their business.  Forget delays or tower permission, no one has to know anything.  I know how long it takes to disarm the forward entry door, open it, let a person on, close it, and then arm it again.  It actually takes less time than it took for me to type all of that out.  It seems like such a little thing that would save a lot of trouble for everyone involved.  Nothing is more frustrating than being told you missed a flight that’s still just sitting there with the jet bridge attached.  Nothing is more exhilarating than thinking you missed a flight and then somehow finding your way into a seat.  Sure enough the agent told him that he was just put on the next flight to wherever, and that was that.  Hopefully there isn’t a nonrev crewmember getting screwed over by that little scene I just witnessed.  Drama so early on a Sunday morning!  That is just obstacle one of many obstacles commuting flight attendants deal with trying to get to work.  I survived this potential roadblock but there are several more to come before I’m finally at the right gate at the right airport in the right city at the right time.  And you wonder why most of us aren’t in better moods?

The Modern Businessman

Two things that I learned right away, but was unaware of at the time of my hiring are this: 1) my airline caters to the business traveler and 2) the business traveler is a strange creature.

I did not know this when I signed up for this gig; I had never even met a businessman before.  Now I see the same cookie cutter middle-aged businessman a hundred times a day.  They have the same drab suit, same iPhone phone with a Blackberry chaser, same Jimmy Johnson haircut and Jimmy Johnson hair color.  They have the same tubby stomach that they rest their identical laptop computers on.  They drink the same single malt scotch, tell the same jokes, and read the same magazines.

As worthless as these guys are to me in my existence, they aren’t that bad as passengers.  Businessmen travel all the time and know what to expect on the plane as far as the service is concerned, which limits my ability to cut corners.  They know what we will and will not do for them.  Since I’m male they aren’t that nice to me, but at the same time I don’t have to deal with them hitting on me relentlessly.  They pretty much leave me alone and I’m ok with that.

The people who travel every five years are the worst; they want everything under the sun and expect the flight attendants to do everything for them, like we did in the 1970s.  They don’t understand you have 124 other people to serve and it’s not our job to provide their baby with a diaper or stow their overstuffed suitcases in the overhead bins.

Whenever I do see a young person, early twenties to early thirties, I leech onto them like white on rice.  It is so rare a passenger is my age and traveling alone.  They must talk to me whether they’d like to or not.  Most don’t want to chat too long to the hired help though; we cater to stuck-up, self-important brats along with the older businessman.  One is the larval stage of the other: the caterpillar to the butterfly, but in a less beautiful way.

That New Plane Smell

Worse than the passengers on this flight today, is the cockpit.  I’ve already been yelled at by the Captain for keeping my First Class galley too messy.

“I’m sorry.  Screw off Sir.  Why don’t you concentrate on driving and leave the kitchen to me?  It isn’t much, but it’s all I have!”  Later he yelled at me for making him spill his coffee all over the plane’s consoles and the First Officer’s arm.

“Brian, get in here!” he says from the cockpit as the First Officer cleans up his shirt.

“Yes Captain, my Captain.”

“Look at this mess, do you know how this happened?”

“Looks like you spilled your drink all over the controls of this multi-million dollar aircraft, sir.  Got the F.O. too.”

“Yes, there was an accident and it happened because my cup was filled to the rim with piping hot coffee.”

“Yeah, coffee shouldn’t be filled that full, especially in-flight.  Even if you’re on the ground and parked at the gate you can still spill so easily.  That’s why I don’t fill it past 2/3 capacity when people ask me for a piping hot drink.”

“Then why is Glen treating his arm for burns and why is this brand new plane covered in sticky coffee?”

“I have no idea sir, I didn’t pour that cup of coffee.  Someone else poured that for you, was I the one that handed you that cup?”

“Well, go find out who poured this cup, I want to have a word with them.”

Don’t worry Ch**, I won’t rat you out.  🙂

During one of the in-flight P.A.s the Captain mentioned to the passengers that this was a new plane, second trip ever.  During deplaning one of the passengers asked the Captain if he was serious about that.  The good and proud Captain beamed and said, “Absolutely.”  He said it even had that new car smell in the cockpit still.  Chuckle chuckle.  Everyone laughed as I rolled my eyes and said that actually it smells a bit like stale coffee.  I’m not sure when exactly I stopped caring.

September 11, 2006 Austin, TX

My friend John and I drove down to Mother Egan’s on West 6th Street to throw some darts. The girlfriend wasn’t feeling that great so she stayed at my mom’s house, where we were all staying over this festive Labor Day Holiday. Even John and his entire family was staying up in the Austin suburbs of Round Rock.

We got to the downtown Austin pub at 10pm and left right after 2am.  I know we only had four pints and two shots; tequila as we left the bar and a SoCo lime earlier in the night.  Over four hours that isn’t bad, especially considering we had a huge meal before we went out.  We played five games of cricket and 12 songs on the jukebox.

After four games we were tied and I think he won the last one but he says I did.  I got to hear all my songs on the jukebox but John missed the first two while he was outside smoking.

I remember feeling buzzed after the first beer, which is definitely unusual.  I was pretty wasted when they ushered us out of the bar, towards the parking lot, and into our cars after closing.  I’m not sure the route back I took but I know I drove very well.

As soon as the car was parked in the garage I must have just let myself go.  That’s the last thing I remember.  I had a weird dream about peeing in a suitcase but that’s all I remembered from the night.  I made a joke about it to the girlfriend when I woke up and she didn’t think it was really that funny.

She said, “you don’t remember last night do you?”  I was facing away from her and I’m sure my eyes were still closed when I was talking to her.  I was in that great sleepy moment when you’re first waking up but pretty much still asleep.  As soon as she said that my eyes shot wide open and a chill went through my body.  Fuck!  Did that really happen?

I turned around and looked at her.  She didn’t look happy.  I swallowed the lump in my throat and asked her what she was talking about.  The last thing I remembered the night before was entering the house; she picked up the story right where I left off.

She said I came into the room at around 3am and I was all giggly and talkative.  She said she thought it was cute but she knew I was wasted.  She never gets to see me that way because if I’m that drunk, she’s even worse.  This was one of those very rare occasions where I had been drinking and she was stone cold sober.

I guess I just stripped off my clothes and passed out next to her.  So far so good.

A couple of hours later she wakes up to a weird noise.  I’m out of bed and standing near the door.  There’s a weird sound.  She squints and tries to figure out what’s going on and then it hits her.  I’m standing above her open suitcase, pissing right into it.

“Baby No!  You’re peeing in my suitcase!”  I guess I got annoyed that she was yelling at me.  “I know I’m peeing!  Well… (pausing and thinking) I didn’t know about the suitcase, but I knew I was peeing!”

She jumps up and leads me down the hall, past my mom’s bedroom and into the bathroom where I guess I shake out the last couple drops of piss.  I flush and get back into bed.  I’m ready to go back so sleep but for some reason the lights are on and she is doing something busy and noisy.  I get annoyed and ask her why the hell the lights are on.  Of course they’re on because she’s on her hands and knees cleaning up my trail of urine from her suitcase, out the door, down the hall and into the bathroom.  I just pass out again and leave her to her work.

I apologized when I woke up and also begged her not to tell anyone.  Of course by dinnertime everyone in the family knew what had happened and was making jokes.  I blame that crazy homebrew we had.  It was insane.  There is no way four pints and two measly shots should have fucked me up like that in four hours.  I cannot believe I drove home, I NEVER do that. I also blame the fact that the girlfriend and I slept downstairs in a room I’ve never even stayed in before.  I think I was disoriented when I got up to hit the head.  There were a lot of factors; it was the perfect storm.

I felt better learning that John did some fucked up stuff at the same time I was peeing in my girlfriend’s suitcase full of clean clothes.  He made his way upstairs and into the bed I usually stay in.  His wife Sunny was in the big king sized bed with their two youngest kids.  The two older ones were also in the room but on little mats of the floor.

I’m amazed he didn’t accidentally step on someone coming in but I guess he didn’t.  What he did do however are things he wouldn’t remember doing either.  First of all I guess he was more of a man than me.  I just passed out but John was in the mood for love.  He climbed in bed and tried to persuade Sunny into a quickie before he went to bed.  Of course she told him to go to bed.

“Come on baby, I’ll give it to you anyway you want it.”  He tried his best but mind you, he’s saying this with all four of his children within eight feet of him.  The oldest was 8 so there’s a chance she knew what he was talking about.

Sunny got John to just go to bed but when he got up a little while later to piss, he made it to the dresser, opened up a drawer and was just about to piss when Sunny stopped him.

I’m not sure what kind of trauma you’d get if you were a 5-year-old boy and you wake up to find your dad wasted, standing above you, pissing into a dresser drawer, possibly dripping on you as well.

So what Mother Egan put in her special brew is something pretty fucking scary.  I’m not sure if it’s actually their beer or just some local microbrew but I’m staying the hell away.  I don’t remember the name but I know it started with Sun, maybe Sunburst or Suncoast.

I was glad to hear that John did some messed up stuff too, it’s not like him.  The fact that we both acted so strange really makes you wonder what the hell happened. I think they slipped us something. I really do.

Bedford and North 6th

When I stepped out on Bedford Avenue with all the other people getting off of the subway I saw something that would be a litmus test on whether or not I’d stay in Brooklyn after next summer. One guy got above ground and threw down his skateboard. Immediately this cab in front of him going the same direction, which was the only vehicle in sight, put on its brakes and came to a sudden stop. The boarder had to drastically swerve to miss the car and these two guys in front of me said, “What an asshole!”

My first inclination was to agree. Yeah, that cabbie was a dick, why did he stop like that and almost cause the skateboarder to wreck? But then I realized that these guys could have been calling the skateboarder an asshole for recklessly jumping into traffic. Finding out what they meant became an obsession. What they meant was going to serve as an indicator about where Williamsburg was at here in 2004.  Five years ago there would have been no doubt that the locals were talking about the cab driver being a dick. But since then the hood has gone from slacker cool to hipster cool to uber-cool and now it’s getting close to yuppie, you never know.

If these two guys were talking about the cab driver being a dick then there’d be some relief that the neighborhood was still redeemable. If they were chastising the boarder, then that’s how low Williamsburg has gone and I need to get the fuck out immediately if not sooner. I follow behind the guys, trying to hear the follow-up conversation and get what they were tying to say. No luck. They went on to talk about friends and whatever. I almost stopped them to clarify, but I was only slightly buzzed, just enough to think that such a simple thing actually meant something deeper in my life.

When Straight Male Stews Attack

The crew is heading to the layover hotel in Los Angeles.  It’s five guys, two girls, and me.  I’m not the only straight one; one of the older guys is straight as well.  We were on the plane for six hours together and on this van for half an hour and he still hasn’t introduced himself to me.  He’s one of those macho guys who’s been the King Cock for many years.  He’s used to being the only straight male and prefers it that way.

I could tell that he was sizing me up when a few of us were talking in a group earlier.  First he was scanning for gayness, giving him the opportunity to accuse me of being a closet case.  It wasn’t there so he held his tongue.  When we were checking in I was standing right by him and kept looking at him until he acknowledged my presence.  He’s much bigger than I am.  He’s older, but works out and it shows, just as it shows that I don’t work out but do have a trim semi fit body.  He has that cheesy ass buzz cut that looked tough years ago, when he was in his prime.  He found a look that worked for him and by God, he’s going to stick with it until the day he dies!

Finally he looks at me and says something.  He asks how I’m doing and calls me Sport, just a little bit nicer than Boss.  I catch the condescending tone.  It’s not wasted on me.  The only attractive female on the crew asks me to re-pin her wings to her jacket.  I do and she makes a joke about me feeling her up in the process.  Everyone laughs and I say something clever in response.  Everyone laughs again.  Everyone, but the straight man who I now decided looks like the asshole jock in Encino Man.  He says something about how that’s cool that I touched her tit, but he’s touched her taco.  He actually used the word “taco”.  I realized then that this guy was even more of a joke than I had anticipated.

Usually there is some sort of camaraderie between the straight flight attendants, even if they’re competing for the girls.  There are enough potential mates to go around and you win some, you lose some, so why fight with each other?  Most guys think that way, not just straight stews.  Not this time.  I’ve never in four years of flying been seen like this.  (written in 2002)

The old rooster is seeing me as someone who might replace him, though I don’t even want to be thought of like that.  I could not care less.  There are plenty of girls in this world to go around and most certainly enough in the confines of our job where boys are already in the minority and most of the boys like burritos and not taco.

Though he hates the attention he gets from the gay flight attendants, he’s a little jealous that now I’m the one they’re saying inappropriate things to.  I handle the comments with just the right amount of humor and masculinity.  I know how to take the comments, decline any notion of whatever, and still have the gay boys respect me and enjoy having me around.  After a trip of them flirting with me and me not freaking out about it, they’re chill and appreciate me being around.  Then they think I’m a really cool person and start to think of possible females they could hook me up with.  I know this other guy complains about getting hit on by the boys, but it’s just as obvious he misses it tonight.

On the van ride over to the hotel I got a couple of calls and the boys made comments about me being Mr. Popularity, Mr. Ladies Man and all that.  Everyone laughed and made their comments.  He just glared out the window in silence.  Since only one girl came to the hotel tonight and since she’s cute, I just know she’s the target tonight.  She’s the prize we’re fighting for, though only one of us is in this competition.  I know her, I’ve flown with her before and I wouldn’t even think about hooking up with her.  I’m not sure why, she’s hot and has a great personality.  She’s also hilarious.  I’m single and in the mood to go out and have fun so I’m not sure why I’m not interested.  Doesn’t matter, if I’m not feeling it then I’m not feeling it.  I’m not usually looking to hook up anyways, I just want to hang out and have some drinks with my friends.  He’s going to make her the challenge though.

We’re all supposed to meet up in her room in ten minutes.  I bet he’s dressed to the nines.  I guarantee he’ll be wearing Cool Water.  I could not care any less.  I’m going to go in and have my drink and be social.  I’ll have another one and hang out.  I have my Hydrocodone just in case.  Another girl I am interested in is coming in to the hotel tomorrow at around noon.  I’m looking forward to that the way the stud is looking forward to tonight’s competition.  He’s going to be well-groomed and his hair will be flawless.  He’s going to be wearing something that shows off his muscles.  He could kick my ass in two seconds and he’s the sort of guy that gets off on that fact.  He can always fall back on that and feel good about it.

Everyone is meeting up just about now.  I’m going to take my time, make a phone call or two, and come in fashionably late.  Just when he thinks that I chickened out of the debriefing in the girl’s room, I’ll come in and everyone will be glad to see me.  They’ll have a couple of drinks in them so their reaction will be slightly more excited and welcoming.  I’m not going to be dressed up.  I’ll be very casual.  I don’t even carry around nice clothes with me in my suitcase, just jeans and a couple t-shirts.  It kills guys like that when a girl chooses a scrawny, slacker, artsy kid who looks like he just rolled out of bed rather than a well-groomed, fit, older, stylish person who takes great pride in their appearance.

I’ll give myself another ten minutes before I go over and see how this plays out.

September 10, 2001 NYC

This was my last entry before the attacks happened just hours later. Funny how the things I was sweating about in here (girl drama: trying to get over one by forcing myself to like a different one) all of a sudden didn’t matter at all just a short time later. I was 26 years old here.

“I thumb through the 100 blank pages of a brand new black-n-white spotted notebook, wondering how I’ll fill it all.  Do dreams and infatuations really go that far before it all gets redundant?  Is this it?  Is this the one that’ll break through?  There’s still soul in my screams; devotion in that sacred old notion.

Rereading everything I’ve written in the last two years sounds like a broken record:  La, la, la:  Drinking, pills, Justine, flying, don’t know where we stand, drinking too much, too many pills, flying, Justine, layovers, what is she thinking?, Justine, bars, pubs, lounges, Justine, flying, Valium, Vicodin, Soma, Xanax, Justine, Hydrocodone, Percocet, K, dreams of plane crashes, Justine, sex, Justine, Justine, and more Justine.  Blah, blah, fucking blah.

The first page is always the hardest page.  Here we go…

Earthquakes shake thoughts from my cluttered head down to dusty pages.                                           A useless summer fades to deep cool autumn.                                         I missed the trees shed snowy buds in classic beat songs, print, and verse until the last blast of Reading rite, savior strokes, and on!air!library gave me hope.   I just needed something new to believe in, a voice from my static struggle and                                                                  soma celebration.                                                               Dig this new sound.  Remember the old thrills. Things are starting to happen                                      and I have butterflies in my stomach again.

I lay on the hotel bed with my head resting on the small of your back as you watch syndicated American reruns.  I rub my hand lightly up and down your newly shaved leg over and over and remember the noises you make and how your skin gets moist from rolling around in my bed and how that’ll never happen again.  It happens in slow motion over and over again in daydreams and in those warm semi-conscious, drifting-to-sleep moments when I smile and sigh and pull the covers up closer to my face and forget about everything else and turn into a child again.”

Yeah, I’m not sure exactly what I was talking about there, but I remember how I felt. I felt a lot like it sounded- very scattered and confusing but at least I knew I was feeling something, I just didn’t know what to do with it. I don’t seem to feel things like that anymore. In some ways I wish more than anything that I could go back to that time when everything was possible and the future was wide open.  Then again, in other ways, there isn’t enough money in the world.

Open Bar, Dude!

Downstairs neighbor Belle invited me and my roommates Blondie and Randy to a work party at Gemini.  She warned it would be a yuppie uptown chichi crowd, but we went anyways.  Randy couldn’t go; he’s in San Francisco for the last of the Phish shows.

The cover was twenty-five dollars to get in with an open bar from 9-11.  I get a little upset when we don’t get our shit together and over to the bar until after 9:30pm.  I take this opportunity to try all those fancy drinks I never feel comfortable ordering otherwise.  I take a liking to the Vanilla Stoli and Ginger Ale, though I feel a little effeminate ordering it.

The crowd is very uptown, but I hang out with Blondie, Velma, Belle, and Belle’s friend sexy new friend Shavonne.  This is the first time I have ever been out in Manhattan where there were more girls than guys.  There were tons of good-looking girls, but they all had dollar signs in their eyes and very few noticed me.  I’m dressed up somewhat, but not when compared to everyone else.

We power drink; there are always supplemental drinks on our table.  I go in the bathroom to take a leak.  There are two slimy looking stock traders or investment bankers hanging out by the sink.  I had seen them earlier at the bar, checking out Blondie and/or Belle and/or Shavonne.  I stand next to them and start pissing.  They do huge bumps of coke, much bigger than the bumps we downtown boys get to do.  While I’m standing there with my penis in my hand, they offer me some.  That was sweet of them.  I say sure and check which nasal passage is the clearest.  One is always stopped up, sometimes both are.  I have never been able to breathe out of my nose, even after I had my adenoids taken out when I was fourteen.  I do a monstrous bump while the last of the urine exits my body and hits the porcelain.  I can’t rub my stomach and pat my head at the same time, but I sure as hell can pee and snort drugs simultaneously.  I feel like this a total New York experience, like you see in the movies.  It’s nothing to those guys, just a night out, but an experience for me.  I say thanks and go back to the group.  It’s shitty coke, or else my nose is still too stopped up.  Yeah, my left nasal passage is much clearer than the right, I blew that one.

At fifteen-till-the-end-of-the-open bar, we all go up and order three or four drinks a piece.  Our table is littered with cocktails, all colors, all sizes, and all shapes.  It’s a beautiful sight and we take pictures.  Those last us well past midnight.  Belle nearly gets into a fight with a guy after he runs into her and causes gin and tonic to spill all over her chest.  She gets belligerent when she’s drunk, worse than my roommate Carolina even.  The legends of her fury are not exaggerated that much.  She must be a demon in the sack and I now wish that I had slept with her when I had the chance, though I would most certainly be more of a target for her hostility.

Another fight nearly occurs while we are dancing.  Some girl runs into Belle and she drops her drink on the floor.  The two of them just stare at the broken glass.  Then Belle folds her arms and stares at the girl, who is twice her size mind you.  The girl’s man steps up and offers to get Belle another drink, crisis averted.  Somehow Belle and I end up in some secret backroom.  She goes off on me for something or other, yelling at me for all sorts of outlandish shit.  Whatever it was, she was so off base, and I actually laugh in her face.  That gets resolved as quickly and strangely as it came up in a big tearful hug.

We go out to find Shavonne.  Blondie and Velma have gone back to our apartment building on 1st Avenue and St. Marks.  Shavonne is snuggled up with some Patrick Bateman guy on the couch.  He better be enjoying this, he will never have a girl that good-looking on his lap ever again.  Belle thinks he’s a dork and tells him that to his face.  I want to leave, but Shavonne is still smiling and enjoying this tool, so we stay.

Belle and I make a deal that once Shavonne quits smiling, we’ll take off.  We stare at her face, locked in.  A few seconds after stud muffin tells her that he has a girlfriend, she quits smiling.  And so we go!

The entire walk home was Belle and Shavonne bitching about guys and how stupid they/we are.  I get some good insight, but I forget what it was.  Apparently this is like the third night in a row a guy has said to Shavonne that he would really love to go down on her.  I can see that. I had been thinking about it myself.  I end up crashing at Belle’s but leave for my apartment upstairs as soon as I wake up while Belle’s still sleeping soundly.

 

June 27, 1999 New York City

Came across this old entry from my journal when I was brand new to the job and brand new to New York City. Seems like such a long time ago, definitely bittersweet remembering that time in my life. I think I had just turned 24.

6-27-99

“We met underground, the first person I have ever met underground.  I just love saying that.  It sounds like a fairy tale, like she was a troll or something.

The whole subterranean encounter was guided by the Fates.  She never takes the F train out of Queens, I never take the F train from La Guardia to the East Village, but there we were, the only two people in the car as I get on the Manhattan bound F train at Roosevelt Avenue.

I see her dressed like a glam angel, velvet pants and glitter all over.  I sit across from her and then become shy, I think it was too obvious.  I could have sat anywhere in the empty car, but I go out of my way to drag all my luggage across the car, to her sights, directly in front of her.  Now, I just sit and let my mind fantasize about what could possibly happen at this particular moment in time.  I could get a wave of courage and say something profound or charming, I could make and hold eye contact, sending soft electricity into her spiky Central American head.

Instead I sit facing her, but looking down or away, pretending to read the ads for laser eye surgery, reading and rereading the lame “poetry in motion” lines, trying to figure out how the authors got their stuff on these Barnes and Noble ads.

“Do you need a map?”

“Excuse me?”  I reply.

“Do you need a subway map?” she asks again holding up the map she was using as a fan. This was the start of the hottest Summer on record for New York City.

Realizing that I look like a tourist just off the boat with my luggage, I see where she’s coming from.

“No, I live here, I’m just getting back from work.”

“Oh yeah? What do you do?”

“I’m a flight attendant.  (I cringe saying that, now I’ll have to make an effort to prove my heterosexuality)  I’m just getting back from San Francisco.  (Again, digging myself deeper)”

She just looks at me for a second and says in a straightforward manner, “Do you want to go to a party with me?”

I think about how odd this is.  The script of the conversation says, “This girl is a freak” but the look in her eyes and my sixth sense says I should roll with it.

“Sure,” I say, trying to sound as causal as possible, like that’s something strangers ask me all the time, “but I need to go by my place to get changed and drop off my stuff.”

“Okay.  Let’s do it.  My name is Alley.”

That’s how it started, randomly on the same train, randomly in the same car, and within fifty words we have plans for the night.

I take a shower while I let her meet my roommates, not knowing she was completely ignoring them and filling her notebook with line after line of brilliant prose and poems about the same things I was thinking about in the shower.

She said the party was way-the-hell-and-gone up in the seedier parts of Washington Heights, which was one of the reasons she talked to me in the first place.  That isn’t a neighborhood a young girl should be walking through alone at night unless she’s familiar with it.

Even as the two of us passed the toothless drunks and hardened thugs, I didn’t feel too comfortable.  Every loud dominoes game was silenced as we passed.  All eyes were scoping us out, sizing us up, and contemplating our agenda.  Alley strode confidently down the avenue and side streets toward dark and lonely Riverside Drive.


It was along one of the eerily quiet back streets that I realized I really didn’t know this girl and she could be setting me up.  We were walking through one of those nightmare gray and black asphalt roads with lurking shadows stirring in the peripheral.  I don’t really remember, but I think she was smirking.  I could be robbed and killed and no one would even know.  I’m sure a gunshot would be ignored around here; I’m sure a scream would get no response at all.  I tell Alley what I’m thinking in a laughing/joking manner.  She doesn’t reply.  Gulp.

We do finally find the dilapidated building just across the Hudson from New Jersey.  We buzz the apartment as the sound reverberates throughout the dusty building.  Some guy who sounds wonderfully effeminate and not at all threatening lets us in.

The apartment is full of kids who left home to make it in New York City.  They are all aspiring musicians, playwrights, actors, and models, all celebrating gay pride in glittery pixie dust, short shorts, fabulous hair, gorgeous costumes, and numerous drugs.  It was like the 70s were wrapped up and shoved into this cramped apartment.

Everyone was having a great time telling stories, prancing around, drinking cocktails and enjoying the sweltering summer in the city.  Then there was one guy who stood out immediately.  A very out-of-place, straight-laced, Jewish teenager in the middle of a living room full of queens and fag hags.  He knew no one in the room when he arrived at the party.  He was supposed to meet Alley there, but I delayed her a good hour.  So this innocent, awkward, straight boy was at the mercy of the fucked up queens and their desire for fresh seventeen year old tail.

He was awfully glad to see us, though he did hand out water-colored flyers to the whole gang, inviting them to his next gig at the Sidewalk Cafe.  Those one-man shows of his became huge in Alphabet City, that boy can be a superstar if he wants to be- Adam Green, The K Mart Cafe Poet.”

Funny thing about Adam is that he is making it. I saw him later that same summer in England at the Reading Festival. Even now I see him on MTV in Zurich. One of the songs he wrote as a teen is the song they sing in the closing scene in Juno. Check him out for yourself.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Green_(musician)

Alley formed a band and then another band and yet another band, often with her twin sister. Right now she’s in School of Seven Bells with former Secret Machines/UFOFU guy, Benjamin Curtis.  Small world, I used to watch UFOFU play in Texas when I was a teenager.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_of_Seven_Bells

With all the success Adam and Alley have had, I can only hope that some of that magic rubbed off on me from that summer. I guess I’m just a late bloomer.

The Donkey Show (one of the worst nights of my life)

You don’t do things like this except when you’re on your own for the first time, at least I hope you don’t.  I was a freshman in college in Austin and for some reason I decided to go to Nuevo Laredo with my roommate and his fraternity for the night.  Only now, nearly twenty years later, am I coming to terms with what went down that night. I never talk about it.

After the long drive straight down I-35 we hit the border. We park the car and walk across. The frat and I go straight for the bar, the first one we can find.  I don’t drink, I’m still scoping out the scene.  I’ve heard too many horror stories of fucked up Americans getting robbed and/or abducted by Mexican policemen, never to be heard from again.

The boys make a decision to meet back at the van at 4am.  I’m proud of them for coming up with a plan, that’s a good sign.  We leave the bar and enter the shabby village of Boys’ Town.  The dirt road, the only road, goes down for as far as I can see, which isn’t very far, I’m looking up a hill.  It’s very well-lit and very dusty.  There are crumbled shacks lining both sides; they are all bars or rooms for the whores.

Everywhere you look you see white boys, 95% of the people are men and sure as hell the other 5% are whores.  At every bar, you’d be hanging out listening to popular American music and a near nude chick would come up to you.  She’d immediately start rubbing your junk and showing her tits.  I guess that’s suppose to turn us on to such a degree that we’ll be so driven by animal lust, we’d follow her anywhere.

I tell her No and she moves down the bar to the next guy.  He wants to go, I know he does, but he doesn’t want to be the first brother to give in.  They try to act as if they don’t need to get laid, like they get so much at home.  This is just for a goof; they know who they are and why they’re there.

One of the guys tells the brother he had her last year and she was amazing.  That makes him feel better as he’s escorted out of the bar to her room next door.  A couple of other guys are drafted for venereal duty as the rest of us go to another bar.  You never forget the look on a guy’s face when he is being led out by a hooker.  It’s a mixture of fear, smugness, and embarrassment.  It’s hard to look too cool when you’re being led around by a fat whore.

The next place we go has a donkey out front tied to a post.  I ask the guy standing next to it if I can take its picture.  He says I can do whatever I want to with the donkey.  I think I’ll just capture its likeness on film for now thanks.  He threatens to slit my throat if I get him in a picture; apparently he’s wanted in America.  So you’re a killer, I’m impressed.

We go in and see a nude girl dancing around.  She takes a banana, peels it, and sticks it half way up her vagina.  Then the host/announcer guy asks if anyone wants to eat the other half out of her.  One of the lowly frat geeks dives down and does the deed.  He had to ward off a couple of his brothers.  What a sad sad sight.

Then the announcer requests money for a special show.  If we all chip in, the lady will pick up a full two liter bottle of Coke with her vaginal muscles.  Yeah yeah, big deal, of course everyone pays and cheers and gives high fives.  I look at the poor girl’s face; she’s a million miles away.

After the second act the host asks for more money; he’ll bring out the donkey if he sees cash.  This is what the place is famous for.  In my naivety I didn’t even make the connection between the donkey outside and the show inside.  Everyone puts in and they lead the donkey inside.  I should have taken the money out of the offering plate so that there wouldn’t be enough to make it happen. Didn’t think of that though.

Two guys lay the poor creature down on its back and hold its legs, one standing near the head and the other by the tail.  The donkey barely struggles; it must have been drugged.  The girl plays with its penis for a few minutes and it gets hard.  She then sucks on it for effect.  The crowd is on the edge of their seats.  One side of the room is junior high school gym style bleachers and we’re filling them up.

I’m looking at the scene, wishing it wasn’t happening.  The brothers know I have a camera and try to make me take pictures.  I pass, but give them the camera.  Poor donkey, poor girl.  She probably doesn’t get any of this money.  She mechanically sits on its erect mule cock and starts bouncing.  The crowd goes wild.  I walk outside and watch the street.  A guy is selling tacos from cart, I notice there aren’t any dogs or cats around and know it’s not a coincidence. I feel like I’m at an all-time low.

The boys stumble out, raving about the show.  We hit another bar; I need another drink after that.  That must have worked them up; they all sit at the bar, face the room, and wait for the girls.  One by one all the guys leave the building with these apathetic/pathetic girls.  I bet those girls fuck about fifteen guys a night.  I turn to my buddy Owen, my savior on this excursion, but there he goes too, with a real ugly one.  I think he was trying to sneak out without me noticing.  I don’t blame him, Jesus she was rancid!

I knew he wasn’t getting laid in Austin, but I didn’t know the situation was that dire.  I knew of a few sluts I could have hooked him up with if he’d only communicated his problem a little better.  I sit and drink alone, constantly telling the cycle of girls to leave me alone.  After awhile they all get the message and quit bothering me.

At 4am I head for the van and meet half the guys, the other half are still out.  By 5am we’re only missing one.  Two other guys leave to find him.  Shortly after the original straggler shows up.  It’s now 6am and the sky is getting lighter.  One of the missing pair has the keys so we’re forced to sit in the parking lot, staring at the trickle of shit brown water known as the Rio Grande.

Another guy volunteers to go find them, but nobody lets him leave.  At 7:10am they show up.  Apparently they found a good pharmacia that opened at 7am, so they waited for it to open.  Waited, I should say, with two more whores.

Since I was the most sober, stone cold sober I might add, I drove the deviants home.  They tried to give me directions, but I know how to drive in a fucking straight line, thank you very much brothers.  I had half a mind to bypass the frat house and take them straight to the clinic for testing.  I think the humor of that would be lost of them though.

We finally get home and I sleep for days. I still have that roll of film documenting everything.  I’ve had it for 18 years, unprocessed. I just know that I’m going to forget I have it and sometime in the future my son or grandson will come across it, take it to a antique place to get developed, and promptly get arrested.