Tuesday, November 9th, 2004

With the fond recollection out of the way, now let me tell you the story of how I learned what an incredible wuss I am.

I hate flying. 

I really, really hate flying.

So we get on the plane on the flight back, Friday night, and I think,
hey, it’s only going to be 4 hours.  It’ll be okay.  I can handle 4
hours.  I handled it on the way here, I can handle it on the way back. 

Once we’re on the plane, we find that problems have already started. 
There’s a family of six adults and two infants who have decided to
eschew such abstracts and tools of oppression as seat assignments and just sit together.  Their chicanery, combined with row 11 being broken – none of the seats were usable at all – mean that the flight attendants are having to rearrange people and
argue with this family about where they can sit and why it’s important
they sit there.  One lady gets so up-in-their-grill about the seating
thing – one of the people who had consciously decided to say fuck the
seating assignments – that the attendants are threatening to kick her
off the plane.  Babies start crying around this time and The Boyf is
like, “So, uh…when does that drinks service start, anyway?”  I
realize abruptly that one of the flyers in this group of seat
annexation afficionados is a skinhead with Tourette’s Syndrome, and I
think oh yeah, this is going to be an entertaining flight.  I am going
to have plenty to distract me from my fear of flying.

(I should note two things:  The Boyf
is not at all certain the guy was a skinhead, but let’s be honest – the
story is better if he is.  His head was definitely shaved, anyway. 
Second, he was extremely cooperative and cheerful with the
attendants, and was by far in the best shape to fly of anyone in his
group.  He didn’t fight with them, he didn’t kick up a fuss, and he
smiled at everything they asked him to do then complied with due
haste.  He was obviously a nice guy, talking and laughing and making
the best of the flight.  Still, just imagine him trying to play
Blackjack at a table in Vegas:  Hit me!  Hit me, motherfucker!  I know, I’m going to hell, I know.)

Next up on the roster of Accidental In-Flight Entertainment is the
blond woman who was, seriously, about seventy feet tall.  I mean, she’s
huge.  And she’s wearing these platform clogs that add another four
inches, easily.  And she’s hurt herself in some serious way at some
point in her trip, because her husband was wheeling her around in a
chair with her right leg held out in front of her through the airport
in Vegas.  Her voice is all gravel and she seems like she might have
had an informal muscle relaxer at a bar on the way to the airport, and
I think yes, she will also be entertaining.  At one point I catch a
glimpse of her ankle, which was a deeply unnatural shade of red, and I
immediately feel sorry for her – but she’s still funny.  Honest to the
gods, she sounds like Dr. Girlfriend from the Venture Brothers.  She’s
singing baritone in a boys’ choir come Sunday morning, I guarantee.

Once we’re all finally in our seats, the flight takes off – and I start
to whimper.  I really, really hate flying, and I find takeoffs to be
tremendously bothersome.  Even typing this, I can feel that bob and
weave in my stomach, the sensation of falling and the tremendous
light-headedness.  I immediately wrap one hand around The Boyf‘s
knee and my other around his elbow.  If I plummet through the floor of
the plane to certain death, let’s just say Bruce is going to have to
fend for himself, because I am taking The Boyf with me.  So
here I am, gasping and moaning and clutching the nearest gobbets of
flesh I can get my claws into, and drinks service starts.  The
attendant, a perky asian woman who smiles like her face is about to
split in two, brings me my requested Jack Daniels and a Diet Pepsi.  I
dump all the liquor and a very little Diet Pepsi into the cup of ice
and start chugging.  By the time I’m done adding Diet Pepsi to the cup
after successive swigs, things are starting to look up.  The crying
children aren’t, the skinhead hasn’t picked a fight and people are
starting to nod off to sleep.  I’m still clutching The Boyf like he’s
designed for use as a flotation device, but I think I’m doing okay.

“Would you like some extra peanuts?” the perky attendant asks with her
death-grimace.  “I hear they go great with the cocktails!”  Then we get
more peanuts.  By the time we’ve been peanuted a third time, I say to
The Boyf, “Why are we getting all this extra attention?”

Two hours later, halfway through the flight, Flight Attendent Perky comes on the intercom:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I feel like we just have to be honest with you…” she says, and I think OH MY GODS WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE before
she goes on to finish her apparently stark confession with, “All three
of the lavatories on the plane are currently unusable,” at which point

The time of my collectedness is at an end.

From that point forward, I can’t sleep.  All I can do is moan at every
bump of turbulence – and there is plenty of turbulence.  I clutch The
Boyf, Mr. Saturday is
patting me on the arm and telling me it will be okay, and I am nearly
in tears as we come in at RDU for what is easily the wobbliest landing
since Kitty Hawk.  On the way down to land I chug two cups of coffee
because I need to be awake to drive home and let’s simply take it as
read that two cups of airline coffee don’t do jack to help my nerves.

Fuck flying, I think to myself.  Then I end up saying that, over
and over, as we stand at the gate.  I am exhausted and scared and every
nerve I have left is standing on end.  I flee the airport, basically
running down the concourse to get to the escalator and out the doors to
the precious air of home, where it is now 6:30am.

As I stand outside, chaining cigarettes off one another, the blond
Amazon with the bad ankle staggers outside with her husband.  He leaves
her on a bench to go get their car from Park & Ride, and she lights
up one of her own.  Head cocked, she eyes me for a moment and then
leans forward conspiratorially from ten feet away.

“You don’t like to fly,” she rasps.  I fully expect her face to fall
off and see the Crypt Keeper cackling at me, but that’s spurt of
disturbing imagination isn’t her fault – I’m just tremendously on edge
by this point.  A cocktail of caffeine, nicotine and adreneline has
worked me into near-hysteria. 

“I certainly don’t,” I manage to mumble, and she nods at me and leans back on her bench.

“That’s okay,” she booms.  “My husband doesn’t like to bungee jump.”  I
ponder briefly the sudden course change, and she adds, “He won’t let
anybody watch that videotape.”  Learning she has a sense of
adventure and a desire to videotape her husband in his worst moments
actually warms me up to the lady and I start to giggle a bit madly. 
“Yep,” she says in the voice of a thousand chain-smoking Jack
Nicholsons, “He’s all AYIIIIIIIIIIIIIII on the way down but I’m like, woohoo!” 
Her attempt to falsetto the “woohoo!” comes out in exactly the same
octave as the rest of her speech, and when she laughs, it’s like
sandpaper fighting a granite slab.  We laugh for a minute and I’m
wiping my eyes and starting to calm down when she notices a baby bird
fluttering around outside the terminal.

“I think that bird is hurt,” she says.  Long moments pass and she goes
on.  “I’m gonna catch that bird.  I’m gonna take it home and save its
life.”  She drops one hand towards the ground, rubbing her fingertips
together in the same way I do to catch Bruce’s attention, and she
bellows, “Here birdy, birdy birdy.”  Unsuccessful, she looks back at
me.  “Watch.  I’m gonna catch that bird.” 

Having now seen the lady’s ankle and her state of wakefulness, I’m
thinking she’s going to be lucky to catch a breeze when it suddenly
hits me:  this lady was not my in-flight entertainment.  Rather, I was hers
And I got so many damn peanuts because of all the motley crew that made
up our flight – the fighting family, the drunk lady with the bad ankle,
the woman bent double and praying aloud the entire flight – I was the one that stewardess thought would flip his wig if he didn’t get a little extra hand-holding.

And that attendant was right.

So, after another cigarette and a few moments of being unexpectedly but
thoroughly humbled, I bid the ankle woman a good morning and a safe
drive and I went back inside to find everyone at baggage claim.

“Everything okay?” Mr. Pink Eyes asked me, and I just nodded and smiled.

“Everything is better now.” (more…)

And we’re only a little poorer for it.

Vegas is a blast.  Let me just say that right now.  Vegas is
also every bit as sleazy and skeezy as you’ve ever heard or imagined.

Our first night there we had one of my favorite experiences: 
taking over a Blackjack table and playing with a fantastically friendly
and funny dealer.  This was awesome.  Angel managed to beat
the casino by a significant margin and Corwin was racking up dollars
every time he touched a slot machine or video poker, and so we just sat
around and drank and smoked and played 21 with this dude named Walter
dealing for us.  He told us all about his old roommate who
couldn’t pay rent but was a tattoo artist, thus paid him by doing a
huge tattoo on Walter’s back as he sat drinking beer and watching
Jeopardy every night, “Neighbors thought I was strange, sitting there
in the living room with blood running down my back.”  The Las
Vegas Club was cranking the Ramones while we played, and it was a damn
good time.

Gambling wasn’t as kind to us as we’d fantasized, with its occasional
tiny ups and tiny downs.  I didn’t make a profit but I also didn’t
gamble away hearth and home, so all was well.  Whenever anyone
brought up politics, someone would say, “That didn’t happen, it isn’t
real,” and then we’d start drinking again.

A definite highlight of the trip was going to see Purple Reign, the
Prince tribute band, at the Boardwalk casino.  Oh.  My. 
Gods.  Dude looked so like Prince it hurt.  Some
junkie was trying really hard to get in Prince’s pants and we were
rooted in the front row, grooving along to “Pussy Control.”  It
was awesome.

I think the best thing we saw, though, might have been from the hotel
room itself.  There we were, on the 33rd floor, and at night
when we opened the curtains we’d look out over the lights of Las
Vegas; in the morning, we’d wake to snow-covered peaks in the
distance.  Magnificent.

Our exurban excursion was to Boulder City and beyond, where we walked
along the Hoover Dam.  I think I should mention that by “walked” I
mean “clung to the wall” in my case, because the Hoover Dam is the best
combination of effects:  eerily beautiful and tremendously
terrifying.  And everywhere were items of memorabilia that read
“My Dam T-Shirt” or “My Dam Coffee Mug” or “My Dam Tote Bag,” and that
was also awesome.

We ran around, we giggled, we saw really painfully obvious hookers and
we saw a short dude stand in front of a $1/fortune mechanical swami and
scream, “I WANT TO BE BIG!”  You can’t pay for entertainment like
that.  It was amazing.  Surrounded by friends and the nonstop
laugh-riot that is the human race, I was excited and a little
overwhelmed.  I loved it.

But I am so very, very glad to be home again.  Gods yes.  Home is truly at its best when you return to it. (more…)