flying

I flew Delta from LAX to Minneapolis to Hartford . Red eye special . Good arrival time for my friend to pick me up , except that I got confused on the day . The day I flew in he had a gig and had to pick me up a little later . I waited in an airport bar and had a couple of expensive airport beers ,  local Connecticut stuff .

Now I’m home again . Same flight in reverse , except that this time it wasn’t a red eye .

Three hours in Minneapolis . Coming in from L.A. , I saw snow covering the parking structures outside . On the return trip , two weeks later ,  no snow . The airport is stretched out along endless concourses . Concourses . When do you walk concourses  outside of airports ? Am I missing something ? There are moving sidewalks and a tram .  Endless concourses . Food courts . Shops .  WiFi access .

I had a few mini-bottles of Scotch in my carry-on bag . They’re allowed . My friend Willie told me that last year . He gave me a couple of them to test his statement . No problem .  I showed them to the snoops , thinking that they might confiscate them . No . Willie was right .scotch

To order the same shot of Scotch during the flight would have cost me seven dollars , I think . Drinking one of the bottles during the flight I felt as if I were now out of the red , outsmarting Delta , pushing the envelope . The little bottles cost only 99 cents in Connecticut .  If I had had a few more mini-bottles I’d be sitting pretty , ahead of the game , actually beginning to show a profit . Well , almost   .

I once went from Berlin to London on Ryan Airlines . Ryan , if I remember correctly ,was the airline that seriously considered charging a fee to use the restroom . Nice .I would have gone broke .  I got to the Berlin Airport , Freuninggulingen ……., no Shaeuftshaffen ……. no Sheinifeld ? , Shoenefeld ? , at six in the morning . I had come from Poland by taxi that morning . Got there overly early , as is my way .WWI air ambulance

I was second in line . We were the only two customers to have arrived so early for the flight .  I had one bag to check . There were two conveyor belts moving luggage along : to London  and to  Ankara . I didn’t see the clerk put my lonely bag on the Ankara belt . I should have been watching , I guess . When I got to London I had no clothes . 10 days in England and no  clothes other than what I was wearing . I won’t tell you the whole sad story . My bag met me in London on the 10th day , having , I assume , enjoyed its own vacation in Turkey . We flew back to Berlin together , but we didn’t talk to each other the entire flight .

Another Berlin to London flight on British Airways was exciting after the pilot announced  over the scratchy PA system that he thought the landing gear was stuck . We were going to have to go in on our shiney sleek aluminum belly . The pilot’s voice was almost inaudible and he had a heavy English accent . One of the many . Dorset , maybe . Rs everywhere . Like old movie pirates :  Aarrh , matey ! Wharr yer headin’ ? Shiver me timbers !  Emarrgency vehicles aarrh be preparrhin’ fer arrh landin’  . Aarh.sign el monte airport

The plane was full of Germans . I , a native English speaker , was barely getting what the pilot was saying . I didn’t think that many of the Germans got much of it . But , on the other hand , maybe they had learned English from the English . Good possibility that they understood a lot more than I did , now that I think of it .

When we approached Gatwick , or was it Heathrow ? , the emergency vehicles were lined up along the runway . There were plenty of them : fire trucks , ambulances , police , hearses . Well , maybe not hearses .   I had confidence in the pilot and the plane . I don’t think anyone else in the plane could say the same , judging by their panicked expressions . Those pilots , highly trained ,  could slide it in on its fusilage belly .

Buckle your seat belt ; it’s gonna be a bumpy ride . airplane seat belt

But the landing gear came down and we all rolled to a stop .  Anticlimatic . I’m not complaining .  Billy Bob Thornton said ,” I’m not afraid of flying . I’m afraid of crashing . ”   That about sums it up .

About these English accents :

Ada and I flew from LAX to London once and I had arranged , in advance ,a rental car from the airport . I never sleep on flights and by the time we reached the car rental desk in London I was exhausted . I couldn’t , for the life of me , understand what the English girl at the counter was telling me . It was a Friday . I thought that she was telling me that my car wouldn’t be available until Monday . She wasn’t , of course . She was trying to tell me that my car would be a Mondeo .  I was losing my temper .

” Not Monday !” I said . ” Now “england

Ada had to translate . Mediate . Ada grew up in Poland .

” Tell him…” the English girl would say .

” Tell her ….” I would say .

Oh.  The car is called Mondeo. Nothing about Monday . It’s waiting for us . Oh . O.K. Why didn’t she say so ?mondeo

I don’t mind flying much . Once in awhile . It’s quick once you leave the ground .  Gets you places you might not otherwise go . Somewhat uncomfortable . Never enough leg room . And they always remind you how a seat belt works ; they show you ; give a demonstration . That comes in handy because sometimes , if you haven’t used one in a few hours , you might have forgotten .

Sometimes you should bring along an English-American dictionary , or , at least a phrase book . Several English speakers from various corners of the earth learned English English from the English . Beware .  And consider bringing  some little bottles of booze . If nothing else , it gives you a sense that you’re getting away with something .  Even if you’re not a drinker bring some  —– trade one  for a few more tiny bags of peanuts or pretzels . If you ride Ryan Air , bribe the stewardess to use the head without paying the fee . Endless possibilities . Endless.illustration 3

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tonsil paint tasting

A friend of mine came over last night . She showed some black-and-blue bruises on her arms and one lumpy bruise near her eye . Like the latest boyfriend had beaten her up . But , no , she said , it wasn’t a boyfriend .DANCE

It was the rot-gut whiskey , the hooch , the panther piss . She had gone to a whiskey tasting party at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles . Of all places to raise the drunken sails , that’s an interesting choice . The expression ‘three sheets to the wind’ doesn’t quite tell the tale .

Her two companions entered the same troubled water , she said . All three got inelegantly blotto , to be blunt about it .

He, the husband friend , went off at some point not to return . The wife friend  ” was going crazy” because the husband went missing . They had all three over-stayed their welcome at Sobriety Village by then , long-overstayed it , and had skipped town for the dark wilds of unincorporated Inebriation . The husband turned up sometime later  in a men’s room stall in the station . If you’ve ever been in the men’s room at Union Station you will know what a hell hole it is . I’m half-afraid to go in there during the day and sober . I  have done so only in dire emergencies . Going in there sloshed and  in the evening is a terror unimaginable , or quite in line with the common custom , I suppose .  It all  depends on your point of view  .

Until the 1960s that restroom  was something of an elegant place . There was an attendant always on duty in there wearing a starched white jacket and holding  towels at the ready over his arm . Everyone was , of course , wonderful in those days ,  because those were the Good Old Days .Those days are long gone , though . You may have noticed that . The heyday of Union Station , by the way , were the Good Old Days of the Second World War .

The two women wobbled over from the whiskey tasting soire and sat in the big cushy leather chairs inside the station . Any port in a storm !  In the Good Old Days , anyone could sit in a chair there inside Union Station and relax , perhaps to  contemplate the universe or the exquisite tile work on the walls , or the beamed ceiling , or the designs on the marble floor of the station , or whatever .  Nowadays , though , a sheriff’s deputy approached and told them to leave . Nowadays a weary soul must have a train ticket and, therefore ,  be prepared to verify a destination in order to sit in a cushy comfortable leather chair . The authorities decided to institute this policy to keep the homeless hoards from having a haven for the night .Api and LACMA Oct. 2015 077

Well , rules is rules , so the two inebriated women had to go .elsewhere to suffer the effects of their   stupidity    liquid miscalculation.  Meanwhile , the lost husband was either asleep or passed out in the men’s room stall ; he doesn’t remember which , evidently . I didn’t get the story of what happened to this happy couple as the night progressed .

My friend has a sister savior who drove down to LA that night on a rescue mission .  Some of  homeless did , no doubt , that night , the same thing : ask salvation for the night at the Rescue Mission . Oh , I didn’t yet mention that she fell over a whiskey-tasting soire chair , having misjudged the trajectory of her sloshed and bender-bashed body , the dexterity of her feet , and the distance and time to the chair seat . That’s how she got the bruises , she says , but she doesn’t really remember too many of the details . She was , by that time , fried . Her head hit the floor , she is sure . She was bent at the time , of course .  She was zozzled .

I asked her was it scotch she was ‘tasting’ . She looked baffled and said  ” It was whiskey ” indicating , I think , that she didn’t know scotch from bourbon from rye whiskey from Canadian from moonshine .  And  she said that there was some food at the ‘whiskey-tasting’ event , but that she had refused it since she had had a big lunch hours earlier .MINES

Oh , and did I mention that this friend isn’t some dopey teenager or college kid . I won’t tell her age , but she’s old enough to know better . She doesn’t usually drink whiskey . In the last twenty or thirty years I’ve never seen her drink whiskey . Maybe a margarita once in awhile . A glass of wine or two with dinner .

Oh , I take that back . She had fairly recently developed a liking for cocktails mixed with bourbon . She says she’s off whiskey now , however , for good , after the Union Station fiasco . That’s what she says . That’s what they all say . Better be drunk on life next time , I think , and leave it at that .

I wonder if she knows bourbon is the devil’s juice , too . Wine is fine , as they say , but liquor is quicker .  doctor caricaturechain link

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the burning of washington

This is a Catholic school story again .

I liked to have my classes make flour-and-water maps . A little geography . A little history . A little fun . There’s less and less of that kind of thing going on now in these days of testing , teaching to the test , and testing again . No test for flour-and-water mapping  !

This particular year the students each  chose a state . They made a dough shape of their state and I put the little dough states in an oven in the teachers’ lounge at a low heat to dry out .

In Catholic elementary schools , on Fridays , the school troops over to the church for noon Mass . So we were sitting in the church . One of my students said to me : Do you smell smoke , Mr. H ?

No , I didn’t .

I think I smell smoke , another student said .  I didn’t . I figured that they were grasping for any little distraction . Concentrate on the Mass , I said .

And then there were sirens . A fire truck .  Then more sirens . Fire trucks . Close by .

And then the light bulb went on in my head : I left the states drying in the oven !

I rushed out into a mass of firemen scooting around with extinguishers , walkie talkies . The school was surrounded . Fire crews were unravelling their hoses . It’s just smoke from the oven , one of them reassured  me . No ignition .

No ignition , I told the principal as she rushed into the building . Black smoke billowed out the door as she entered . Open the windows , she said . You did this ? she asked matter-of-factly .   She knew .

It was Washington , I said . It still had cardboard on the bottom and the cardboard caused the smoke .

Washington ? she said .  She looked at me with an unexpectedly tolerant stare . Help me get this smoke out of here , she said . And she was done . She never said another word about it .

The fire department always sends everyone when it’s a school , the pastor said to me as he passed me in the hallway . He was carrying a fire extinguisher . I wonder what happened ? he said to the principal .

It was Washington , she said to him . He looked at her briefly as if he should know what she meant , and then he sped away with his extinguisher .

Good one , Mr. H.  ! , one of my students softly whispered to me later . You burned Washington .
There was a fathomless measure of collegial sympathy in his conspiratorial gaze .

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flying again again

It’s a slow insidious from of torture , of course .  We let them get away with it , though , a little bit more every year , until we’ve got what we’ve got . Less leg room . Thinner and harder seats that recline only far enough back to invade the space of the person behind you , but not nearly far enough to make the cramped passenger significantly more comfortable . Two passengers share , as best they can work it out , one hard armrest .airplane in hand

I can’t sleep on planes . I watched three movies and a TV show on the flight from London to LA . The woman sitting in the seat ahead asked if she could put her seat back . I was impressed by the fact that she had asked  . Usually the person simply releases the seat and it swings back abruptly with no fair warning . Usually , on top of that , the person in the seat ahead pushes his or her full body weight back into the chair  hoping ,    I suppose,  to force the tight little torture device  further back than the Nazi – inspired design master commercial aircraft engineers and their corporate overlords  had intended . That futile hope  doesn’t last for more than a bouncy second , or two,  or three .

I had what was classified as a cheap ticket . With a cheap ticket I wouldn’t be getting any meals in flight . It’s a ten hour flight , so Ada had packed me a nice lunch . But , what I didn’t expect  was that with the cheap flight the airline wouldn’t even fork over a complimentary cup of coffee or tea . Oh , sure , I could pay ( too much ) for one when  ‘ the snack bar ‘ was open , or I could have pre-ordered meals that included coffee . But I’m cheap , so I didn’t pre-order . IMG_7173

It wouldn’t have hurt the airline much , in my opinion , to spring for  a few coffees and teas to all of us passengers to sooth our tattered nerves a bit . But , no . None of those corporate executives wherever they are figured it might be a good public relations strategy , that the good will engendered might balance the expense of a  couple pots of coffee and tea . Or , more correctly , the avoidance of bad will , in my case , might have made it worthwhile .

I have several ideas for the airlines , that airline and other airlines might be interested in . They could put coin-operated toilet paper dispensers in the toilets , for example . $$$$$. When a passenger manages to squeeze down and squirm around in a seat and to somehow fall asleep then s/he  could be charged a sleep tax. Call it a bed tax or a luxury fee .

Maybe I should have been an airline executive . Never thought of it before now . After  my first couple of executive bonuses I would surely have acquired  enough dough to pre-order the meals for the flight to LA  . Ah ! , but hindsight is always  20/20 .

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flying again

Poland 8 2016 coconut oil and kids 009

I had to leave Ada in Poland and fly home alone . At 5:30 in the morning the two of us took a taxi to the train station . That’s where the FOLLOW ME  bus picks up passengers to Berlin . I had a sack of sandwiches and snacks that Ada had prepared for my long journey back to Arcadia. The two of us  stood in the snow and said our goodbyes and then Ada took off again in a taxi as the FOLLOW ME bus slowly pulled away . It wound around the dark streets in an increasing snowstorm .

I hadn’t had any coffee that morning , or the glass of effervescent aspirin that Ada set out for me . I told her that I didn’t want to have to pee on the 2 1/2 hour trip to Berlin . As it turned out , I would be riding on a full-size bus that had , as a matter of fact , a toilet . Oh , well !  We have to make the best decisions we can with the information that we have at the moment , even if it turns out that our conclusions are wrong  in the end . I should have had that coffee .

The snow kept coming . The driver stopped half -way there to scrape ice  off his windshield wipers . I didn’t know what he was pulling off the road for . He gave a quick explanation in Polish . The woman sitting near me happened to be living in England and , of course , spoke English . She had been speaking to her two little children in English . She told me what the driver had said  . The bus took off again in a couple of minutes , but I figured that the driver was wishing the entire way  that he had better wipers .

We made it to the airport , Schonefeld , in heavy snowfall . The trip had taken longer than it would have taken in better weather . I helped the woman get her kids , one in a stroller , and their luggage , into the terminal . As it happened , we were all going on the same flight to London.

We were all in the long line together headed for the security check until she was able to skip ahead because she had small children . The security personnel took her up ahead to the scanners and they were gone . I didn’t see them on the aircraft , but they must have been in there somewhere .

Where is the other passenger ………….Ada ?  the clerk at the Norwegian Airlines ticket counter had asked . I answered . I asked for an aisle seat . I smiled and thanked her . She pointed me to the security line .

Waiting  to get to security I kept checking my watch . The time kept ticking steadily away but the line didn’t move ahead much at all . I , of course , had determined a threshold time of disaster , as far as making it on time for my flight . When that point was forty minutes in the future  I was cool . Calm . Then it was only twenty minutes away . The line was hardly moving ahead . Now ten minutes away . Now five . I watched the second hand of my Timex cross the designated moment and I knew by then that I might well not make my flight .

Meanwhile , I had to go to the restroom , of course . I had guzzled down a bottle of orange juice and was working on a small bottle of water . The original plan was that I would be a couple of hours early to Berlin , so I would calmly drink the juice , maybe buy a cup of coffee , eat a sandwich . But , no . No , no , no . From the moment of being handed my boarding pass I had to join the long slow security line that I was now in .

But I made the flight . A little jogging may have helped toward the end . I got to my seat , actually to my two seats , and some guy in the window seat had put his jacket on Ada’s seat . I was at that point a little touchy , having been a little stressed out for the last hour . I considered asking him to get his damn jacket off of my wife’s seat . Then I thought , I’ll be calm and courteous about it when I talk to him . Then I re-evaluated the matter once again and told myself ‘ the hell with it ‘ and I just dumped my jacket on top of his . He ignored it . Nothing to fight about . We had a non-aggression pact that lasted the whole flight .

Of course , as par for the course of course , the plane sat still on the tarmak for about an hour and twenty minutes beyond scheduled takeoff time . I was caught in  the middle of a ‘hurry up and wait’ situation .  I had a connecting flight in London to LA  with an hour and a half layover time . As we sat there in Berlin on the runway my latest time threshold of disaster had been passed . Five minutes ago . Ten minutes ago . By the time we finally took off from Schonefeld the Norwegian Airlines captain at Gatwick on my LA flight had probably already switched on the seat belt sign , the flight crew had certainly locked up the toilets and  were in the process of checking that all seat backs were up and tray tables stowed .  The first class passengers were no doubt doing the last minute things that  first-class passengers do before takeoff . Maybe they have to put their champagne glasses somewhere special during takeoff . I don’t know . I wonder if their first class toilet gets locked . I have a sneaky suspicion that it doesn’t .

As soon as the seatbelt sign was switched off after takeoff , I asked a crew member what my options were , now that I would absolutely miss my connecting flight . He assured me that he would find out ;  he’d let me know ;  but I’m a skeptic , and I suspected that what his reassuring words really meant , translated into real life , was : ” Go away and don’t bother me . ”  IMG_2480

Turns out there is safety in numbers . By some odd quirk of fate there were so many other people on that flight from Berlin who were going to LA along with me on my LA flight , that Norwegian actually held the plane at Gatwick  for us . I’ll bet the passengers sitting it out on the Gatwick tarmac were not especially soothed  when the captain periodically chimed in :  Just a few more minutes , folks , and we’ll be ready to go . Sit back and relax . 

At Gatwick we all went through the security line again . We rushed along to Gate number 8 , expecting to board .  No . No , no no . Passport Control . I had forgotten that there’d be a passport control . One officer . Careful . Meticulous . Diligent .  Took his sweet time checking each person’s passport . No hurry as far as he was concerned .  I had been thinking about what the Mad Magazine character Alfred E. Neuman used to say : ” What , me worry ? “

 

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a reminisce

I wandered over to the Dublin Pub a few days ago here in Szczecin just for old-times sake . I used to go there when I first started visiting Poland , a little over twenty years ago .  The city was a very different place then ,  just after the changes from the Communist decades . At first there was no place to go for a drink [ we all have our priorities !]  that I knew of except some scary vodka joints full of hostile -looking derelicts . That’s how  I remember it , anyway .

Then , within a few years , there was the Dublin Pub , and the Boston Pub , and the London Pub . Despite the names , there was no one in any of them who could speak English . There was another bar tucked away in a back alley that I’d seen but never really had the courage to enter . I think it was called the Desperado , and it looked it . And there’s one place named after an old ship . I can’t , for the moment , remember the name . It’s not the Lost Dutchman , but that might as well be the name , because I know the place still operates but I haven’t been able to find it again . Cutty Sark —- I think that’s it .

The Dublin Pub was my choice for a beer in those years . The Boston and the London were too full of young people and blue clouds of cigarette smoke , and the chairs seemed to be stuck into tight little corners and alcoves on several levels up and down stairs . The Dublin was roomier . There was not an Irishman around , I should say , or anyone in those days who spoke English , but it did look like someplace one might see in Ireland . Customers have to walk down a few stairs to the entrance because the place is below ground level , but then it’s on all one level . Well, except the toilet , which is a few more steps down .

The Dublin is where I went once when I locked Ada and her sister and her cousin and her niece and who knows who else in for most of the the night . It seems in Poland  that when you lock up a door and turn the key twice  when you  leave the door locks so that even the people inside with a key can’t get out . Their key won’t work . It’s a safety thing , I was told . When you turn the key one revolution — no problem . When you turn it two revolutions …………..

So Ada and her crowd were inadvertently locked in by me when I left . In my defense , no one had explained the onesies and the twosies of Polish locks to me until later. By then , of course , it was a little too late . Way too late .

Dan : You mean to say that , even when someone inside has a key , the key won’t work if the lock has been turned twice ?

Yeah.

So , how in the world does that make sense ? I guess so the husbands can lock their wives in  ?

No , I was told . So thieves who may break in through a window, for example ,  can’t get the TV or whatever they intend to steal out the door.

Oh , I said . Makes perfect sense to me . Not .  American insurance companies would be , as my old boss Mrs. Kay used to say , shitting bricks if they’d heard that one . Fire chiefs would be shaking their helmeted heads .  Made perfect sense to all the Poles , though , as I remember . They’d look at me as if to say : What’s your problem ?

Well , my fault . On the night that I locked that group up in the apartment , I had promised Ada that I was going to the Dublin Pub for one beer and then I’d be back . That was my intention . But I happened to meet Captain Haakon and his crew there . Their ship was in dry dock for a few days and they were filling the time drinking tequila at the Dublin Pub.

Tequila in Szczecin ? Now , that was something to stick my nose into . Pinch of salt and squeeze of lemon on the hand and all of that . Haakon was a Norwegian and his crew were Poles and Russians and maybe a Dane or two and a few others . I walked over and asked  who was the one who knew how to drink Tequila .

I guess that would be me , one of them  said , in his Scandinavian accent .  I am Captain Haakon and this is my crew Sit down and join us . I’ll buy you a drink . IMG_7432

And there you have it . My confession . I sat down even though my tired , sore-boned , and agitated old guardian angel was pleading with me not to do it . That angel is no slouch , too . Knows what’s what . Maybe I should have listened . Well , sure I should have listened .

A beer man should never wander too far from beer . That’s my learned lesson after all of this , such as it is . Sure, I might share a shot of tequila with my friend Juan , or Bill  , back in L.A.  Sitting down with a freighter’s crew in a pub in Szczecin to drink tequila is an entirely different matter altogether .

So I got back a couple of hours later than expected , a little worse for wear . I had no clue that the other crew upstairs , Ada , her cousin , et all , had by now realized that I had locked them all in . Cousin discovered that unfortunate surprise after he’d called a taxi to take him home The taxi showed up down on the street , but cousin couldn’t get out of the apartment . A funny thing , also , was that cousin happened to know the taxi driver , who most likely brought that awkward night up in conversations from that time onward .

And then the cell phone batteries died . The taxi driver was shouting to them from the street , as the trapped group leaned a little out the window six stories up .PIGWA 002

And , the misadventure is not over quite yet . Just as I arrived downstairs at the gate , my step-son happened to be staggering  back from his nightly adventure , wherever that might have been . The two of us held a quick impromptu pow-wow , took one look at one another , and decided that we’d better go someplace and get a cup of coffee and straighten up a bit before were wandered back home .

Not a good idea , as it turned out . I was a few hours late in all and they all had been helplessly locked in and trapped up there in the apartment for at least a couple of hours longer than anyone of them   would have wished.

And , what if there had been a fire ? I said after the double lock thing had been explained to me amid a loud chorus of complaints  . This key thing is just a crazy idea ! 

That didn’t get me off the hook , however . Sometimes you try to change the subject , and for one reason or another it just doesn’t work .

Maybe I should have stowed away on Captain Haakon’s tramp steamer . I considered the possibility briefly , but my guardian angel said no .

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Colorful mural: Greetings from San Diego!

Consistently beautiful photos taken around the city .

Cool San Diego Sights!

The distinctive Victorian roof of the Hotel del Coronado, a top San Diego resort and tourist attraction, appears in the letter S in a North Park mural. The distinctive Victorian roof of the Hotel del Coronado, a top San Diego resort and tourist attraction, appears in the letter S in a North Park mural.

I walked through North Park today with my camera. I had intended to continue up to Normal Heights and walk along Adams Avenue, photographing lots of street art, but I got distracted! I’ll head that way another time.

Meanwhile, stay tuned, because a whole bunch of super cool North Park street art is coming up!  (I think North Park probably has more street art per city block than any other San Diego neighborhood.)

To get things started, check out this cool mural that caught my eye while I walked along 30th Street. Using the magic of the internet, I now send it to you! Greetings from San Diego!

Balboa Park's iconic California Building and bell tower appear in the letter G in the same colorful North Park mural. Balboa Park’s iconic California Building and bell tower appear in the letter G in the…

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cows , boy , & indians

 

 

cow mask person cow sign cow skull sawhorse longhorn johnson city texas

 

 

 

boy on a pine tree

 

buffalo head carved indian face Indian little native american mural

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