Those of you still blessed with impeccable memory may recall from my last post that this one was supposed to be titled, “Denver, The Mile-Long Airport”. And I was tempted. But Denver was just a few hours out of what’s become about 10 days, and it seems silly to dwell on it.
That said, I can dwell for a paragraph or two (or three) (or five) because, come on. After finding a place for my massive pack on YATP, the flight from Bozeman to Denver went off in good weather with only modest delays. (Seriously, though: you know the plane is leaving at time X, and you still can’t de-ice the wings without delaying the takeoff? Every time I leave Bozeman? Really?) We arrived in time at Denver, I exited the plane, and set off to find my gate, 21. It’s another United flight, so how far can that be? What gate am I at now? Um… 84? Wow, that’s a big difference. Ok, well, I’ve got an hour, let’s get started. Reattach daypack to main backpack, perform the ritual to hoist it onto my body over the massive fireman’s coat I’m wearing, belt the hip band, start moving. (Have I mentioned recently that the whole contraption weighs 45lbs, 1/3 of my normal body weight? It does. Weight that much, I mean. Just so you know.)
Walk down a line of gates, around a corner, down a narrow corridor, around another corner, and into a wide hallway with gates and shops and restaurants and, hey, pedwalks! Awesome. Gate 60 now? Cool. Walk down the pedwalk, get off, see I’m down to around gate 55. Huh, ok, not that far. Well, keep walking, oh, good, another pedwalk! Walk down that one, gate 47? OoooK, walk some more, another pedwalk! Walk down that one, gate 39, wait, is this a shopping mall? This looks like I’m in a shopping mall. Jewelry store, clothing, food court, Brookstone, bookstore, gift shop, newstand, massage, flower shop, “Epic Wireless Couture”, yer kiddin me? Maybe if I can keep going through all this… there’s another pedwalk! Keep going, 2 more pedwalks, food, drinks, hah! Gate 21! The Holy Land at last! Sorry, Moses, you cannot enter here. At least I know I’ll have had my exercise today.
Thankfully, despite the Mile-Long Airport, I still had time to grab a sandwich and an iced-mocha drink (iced because I was really warming up under that pack and coat). And more than enough time to eat it, because the flight was delayed due to the stewardesses having to make their way from gods only know what gate where their own flight was only just arriving. I’m not sure what logic causes United to make the departure of a flight contingent on staff flying in from another city, adding even more reasons on top of the various possible mechanical delays that normally plague air travel, but there’s a reason United’s at the bottom of the airline rating list. I normally avoid United, based on past experience. Virgin America is my airline of choice, followed by American Airlines, but when getting in and out of Bozeman, Montana, your options are limited. So here I was.
I had sprung for a slightly better coach seat, on the rationale that those upgraded seats get you earlier boarding and I’d need that to be sure that there’d be room for my pack in the overheads. It turns out, I was wrong. My upgrade was turned out to be only buying extra legroom — which I don’t need; I can fold up like an origami figure when needed, without discomfort — and they put me in the very last boarding group on this delayed flight. (WTF, United? I’ve *never* paid for a premium seat that didn’t come with early boarding.) So, when I got onto the plane, I had to keep walking past my row 10, hunting for any available overhead space. Thankfully, I found just barely enough (budging other stuff around) somewhere around row 25. Then, of course, I had to keep walking to make room for the other folks still coming in behind me, and then explain myself to the stewardess while I waited for the aisle to clear, then walk back to my aisle seat and disappoint the middle-seat guy who already hopped over into mine. “Sorry to dash your hopes,” I said. (We’ve all been there.) Thankfully, he took it gracefully.
The food and drink were basic, and I just had OJ. I signed up for the “United WiFi” service — slow, but I’ve had worse — and then discovered that they censor your internet. Nice, guys. I understand, maybe, that a link to a news story hosted on playboy.com might get blocked — it was just a news story, but no one expect a blocking service to be able to figure that out. However, a link to a list of gay and lesbian movies on Fandor.com gets blocked? Screw you, United. No, really. This is reason #73 of Why Nobody Likes You. Thankfully, I have Tunnelbear, and this was my first occasion to use it on my iPad. I turned it on, followed the now-encrypted link, and got to the Fandor website — which is now bookmarked for future reference. (I’m going to have a lot of time on my hands in Thailand, I can always use another decent video source.)
We landed at LaGuardia slightly late, but not too badly, and then I had to weave my way back to row 25 to get my pack, and then wait for all 25 rows ahead of me to deplane before I could go back to my seat to get my stuff. Sigh. Then I had to figure out how to get into the city — I normally fly Virgin America and arrive in JFK, so LGA is unfamiliar territory. But a bit of wrestling with Google Maps and the iTrans NYC app revealed the right bus to take to get to the subway, and the ride in to Grand Central was definitely faster from LGA. From there, I found the correct Metro North train at nearly the last minute, staked out a bit of floor space on the crowded train, and an hour later was in Bedford Hills, north of the city, being picked up by Sallie and nieces and driven to their nearby home, sparing me a 20 minute uphill walk to their place over ice and snow with a 45lb backpack and summer shoes. (I normally like being my own man, captain of my destiny, dependent upon none, no-man-is-an-island-but-I-strive-to-be-at-least-a-peninsula. But I’m not a lunatic.) (Shut up, Mark.)
A few minutes later, my old high school friend Brandon arrived home shortly thereafter, and the first of many delightful evenings (and days) was had by all. All being: Brandon, wife Sallie, twin 8-year old girls Jane and Cleo, two newly acquired kittens Maxi and Luna, and one very put-out older cat Lex (who has been expressing his dissatisfaction at sharing his home with new kitts by peeing on the kitchen floor and the bathroom rug). For those keeping score at home, that’s 2 Cuddly type cats and one Paranoid, for a total of 4 Cuddly and 2 Paranoid. (Though, in fairness, Lex isn’t really Paranoid, just pissed-off in the most literal sense.)
I would like to show delightful pictures of a picturesque New York winter, with snow and red-cheeked Irish immigrant lasses and a comfy outdoor chair where reading could be profitably done, but New York doesn’t really do that sort of winter. New York mostly does, “Yeah, it’s cold and the snow’s half melted and dirty and screw you buddy if you don’t like it. Get out of here before my cousin Vinny takes a dislike to youse.” Maybe that’s just the Manhattan and Manhattan-adjacent areas. Maybe really-upstate New York is different; I wouldn’t know.
That said, Bedford Hills is, in truth, a nice area. If you like the whole “nice scenery most of the year, lots of trees, friendly enough people, good schools” kind of thing. There’s also beer, and cheese, and it has been long established that Brandon and I need little else to enjoy ourselves than those two elements. Sallie and the girls need more, ‘struth, but that more was also available, and the days since I arrived have been filled mostly with pleasant conversation, minor errands, me trying desperately to get some of the reading done that I’d wanted to do, modest inroads on the last bits of paperwork that I need to do, making a game effort to keep up on Twitter, playing ESO with family (and with twin girls hovering over my shoulder asking delightfully distracting questions), taking a trip into the city on my own to have lunch and hunt futilely for shoes and successfully buy a bit of sake, take local walks in the bitter cold for exceedingly vital exercise, and watch a few videos. (I should note, along that line, that Her is as excellent as it has been said to be.) There’s also been a lot of terrific food; Brandon has been a truly amazing and dedicated cook for many years, and Sallie has been rather impressively stepping up and taking on some of that role. I confess that I’m starting to feel rather left out of this whole “cooking” thing that everyone seems to be getting into. I may have to take that up once I get to Chiang Mai. Or, maybe I won’t. We shall see.
I’ve been feeling a bit behind on stuff I wanted to do before my flight out on the 28th, but I should note that my phone finally got ported over to T-Mobile, and my passport with freshly minted Thai visa stamp arrived here the day after I did, rather sooner than I had expected. I got my Cipro prescription filled (3rd world country traveler’s diarrhea medication), so, um, good there right? And my severance check from Fox arrived also, and is now deposited, so yaay that! I downloaded Turbotax, and am already shuddering at the thought of what my taxes are going to look like for 2014 after the condo sale, but the full horror will have to wait on the W2s coming in. My TSA Known Traveller Number finally arrived — possibly too late to do me any good, but we’ll see. I’ve got the next round of vaccinations scheduled for the 27th in the city, and I have made good progress on the main thing I needed to read: my unread issues of The Unwritten, which I badly wanted to catch up on so that I can continue reading them digitally in Thailand without having to rebuy the ones I’m behind on.
The Unwritten is a series by one of my favorite comic book authors, Mike Carey, who wrote the abso-fucking-fantastic series Lucifer, one of my 3 favorite comic series of all time. The Unwritten’s premise is basically: what if the beloved author of a Harry Potter analog had been able to conjure his character into the real world, where he grew up thinking he was a normal boy until Events occur that embroil him in the war for humanity’s imaginative soul as the boundaries of fiction and reality break down. So. Good. Having a chunk of (mostly) uninterrupted time to read through this has been a gods-send.
This description of my recent Reading would, of course, be incomplete without the Nice Place in which it was performed, in this case the guest room of my hosts’ house:
I can say, without reservation, that this location had the Best WiFi signal, best Internet speed, and the best desk and chair of any of the places I have stayed at so far — which all had their own virtues to be sure but all strained my ability to play Elder Scrolls Online without periodic lag issues. (I’m now worried about how this will go in Thailand.) And the blankets on this bed had the bizarre but wonderful property of being perfectly comfortable no matter what the temperature in the room was, which I was especially grateful for as the space heater (just visible on the other side of the chair) warmed the room during the night. Cold-to-warm (and back again, when I’d wake and turn the heater off), I was never too hot under those blankets, and I don’t even understand how that worked. But that is a gift horse whose dentures I shall not inspect.
And that catches us up! It is now Thursday evening. I’ll be visiting my friend Holly in the city tomorrow, eating lunch at Momofuku noodle bar, and having one more go at finding acceptable shoes. Then Tuesday I must get my second round of shots and mail things to my sister for storage, possibly including my winter clothes unless I can wait until Wednesday morning to do that. Then Wednesday, I’m airborne. I’ll post again after I’m up — with 27 hours of travel, I should be able to take a couple to complain here about how I can never sleep on planes. Wish me luck!