Stormy Weather

Have you noticed how quickly airports shut down at the first splash of a rain drop that hits the tarmac? Twice now I’ve been left waiting at the gate for hours while the weather clears up. Another time I was kept waiting because the airport had too much traffic in the air due to bad weather and re-routed flights that were scheduled to arrive.

What’s with this? I’ve been flying all my life. I’m used to flying in all kinds of weather. Once, I was on board a plane in Argentina in torrential rain. I mean sheets. With lightning and thunder to go with it. We shoved off from the gate and headed toward the take-off area. The plane in front of us got clearance for take-off. It splashed through the rain, leaving a wake of water behind, and climbed into the storm clouds and vanished. Our captain, watching this no doubt from the cockpit, turned and inched our plane to a parking spot. “My wife told me not to play the hero, so we’re waiting for this storm to move on,” he said. In a way, I was relieved. I liked this guy’s survival instincts.

On the other hand, I’ve been on planes when an engine blew out just before landing in Mexico City. I pointed it out to the flight attendant and she said, “Oh that’s nothing, not to worry.” Meanwhile black fumes were spewing out and I could see flames licking the sides of the engine. Either she was blind, in denial or I was hallucinating. Fortunately we were on approach and came to a screeching halt the minute we touched down. Firefighters surrounded the engine with their extinguishers. I found the flight attendant who looked out the window with me. “I know it was your job to calm me down, but don’t take me for an amateur. I know a crisis when I see one. I’m a mother.”

On another flight, the turbulence was so horrible I wanted to die. It was worse than a roller-coaster ride because we were so far up in the air and I couldn’t see the ground. That is always a bad sign in my mind. We had plenty of distance to fall like a rock, but I wanted to sail, not fall. The wings shuddered, the cabin creaked and moaned, the passengers held their collective breaths, and the flight attendants were harnessed into their jump seats looking terrified. We flew through that rough patch and climbed to a higher altitude where we were greeted by angels singing and rays of sunshine.

Even with the newer planes, that are sleeker and more fuel efficient, these episodes happen. Weather trumps everything, every time, leaving all our systems in the lurch.

Calvin says, “That’s why I hate flying as much as going to the vet. Grip the ground is my motto.”

Never Getting Home

It took me two hours to get home on the train last night.I know for some this is normal, but it wasn’t for me.

When I came down the escalator the platform was a sea of people, tightly knit together in a mass of black and grey, standing in one direction away from the platform I usually wait on. Of course there were no announcements to explain this sight. Everyone was relatively subdued and waiting patiently. There must have been five hundred people there, everyone on their smart phones checking for updates. Eventually a calming female voice made an announcement. There was a serious medical emergency at the station before ours and they had closed down the track. Meanwhile they were running all trains, in and out, on one single track. That was even more alarming to me. How could they do that without major smash-ups?

There was no air to breathe below ground. This was also a good indication of how unprepared the city was for an emergency. No police presence either. Another announcement was made. This one specifying that there were too many people here and train personnel were closing the doors at street level for a while. 

I considered my options. To stay or find a coffee shop to wait in, but then I realized I’d be trading one line for another. I decided to stay. Trains trickled in for the next hour, but none were mine. The mass of humanity thinned out a bit bringing some relief. At this point I was strategizing which trains to take and backtrack to get home, but it was too complicated. I would have ended up in Alaska. I stayed put.

Eventually, an hour and fifteen minutes later, another announcement was made telling us the serious medical emergency had been handled and trains were resuming on both tracks again.

While we were never told what that emergency was, we were grateful to get on our respective trains heading in the right direction even if we were packed in like cattle.

Calvin says, “So glad I wasn’t with you. I would have rolled on the ground and howled my complaints.”

Collapse of the Berlin Wall

Yesterday was a first for me. I was on the subway and nearing my stop. I got up from my seat a minute ahead, something I do all the time, walked to the door, and landed flat on my back. The ground gave way under me. More correctly, I gave way. My knees buckled and I went down. It happened so fast it took a few seconds to realize I was staring up at the ceiling. I must say I collapsed gracefully, as if I had practiced this maneuver all my life, like a ballerina on point. In actuality I came down like a ton of bricks.

Fortunately there weren’t many people on board so I had the floor to myself. And it was reasonably clean. The few passengers that saw me go down didn’t move, they just watched me collapse. IMG_4443

One man, who sat near the door, helped me get up, sort of. He helped me sit up and then I got to my feet on my own. I didn’t have any broken bones, head concussions or scrapes. I didn’t look wounded. I did not want to be one of those riders who got sick on the train and the whole subway system jams up while the paramedics and the police with their German Shepherds show up. I just got off at my stop and kept walking.

I made it to the office and gulped down my first cup of coffee.

A few hours later my lower back began complaining. That’s all, just a whine of self-pity in a minor key. I could live with that.

Calvin says, “You know, taking me for walks has limbered you up, otherwise you would have folded like a deck chair and stayed there.”beagle

Island Fever

“Welcome to Paradise,” said the girl behind the counter with an orchid pinned to her hair. A balmy breeze was ruffling my hair as I checked into the resort. It was early afternoon with the sun in full blaze in a cloudless sky. This was check-in Friday. There were so many people and kids coming and going they give you check-in days, like college.

She handed me a welcome packet about tours, restaurants, shopping and rainbow shaved ice treats. All at the resort. They don’t want you wandering off the property and spending money elsewhere. You want to grill your own meat? They have the latest grills, all ten bright and shiny ones, next to the lagoons. You want massages? Step this way. Brunhilde is waiting. How about hula lessons? Sign up for an all-exposure class on the lawn in front of the restaurant. You’re the entertainment while guests gobble fish tacos with pineapple salsa and garlic fries at double the price of anything on the mainline.

Alf and I noticed that mosImage result for koit of the guests were our age with our same body shape. We felt right at home.

They sunbathed on chaise lounges by man-made lagoons, by periwinkle pools and under thatched trees made in Mexico. No one minded the artificial landscape except me. Why did it come to this? Was it a way to control and contain it? What was wrong with a more rugged look?

The koi in the pond were overweight by a few hundred kilos. It was because they had regular feeding hours like we did. Too many fish tacos.

The drinks tasted the same no matter where you were and what you ordered. They were all sugared up and splashed with ice and straws.

The big surprise for me was the pineapple. Never a big fan because of its tartness, the ones on the island turned me into an addict. They were sweet, juicy, crunchy and thirst quenching. I had to visit a plantation and see for myself how they were grown. This led us to the Dole plantation, which when we arrived was packed with visitors from around the world. It was more a souvenir shop with a few plants growing outside, but they were real. I also saw cocoa trees with pods. When I asked where the real plantations were, I was told, “Costa Rica.” I was buying and devouring Central American pineapples in Hawaii? I was in shock. What else were they not telling me?

Calvin says, “You don’t believe all beagle breeders come from England, do you? Remember, I was a Napa pup.” beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tickled in Pink

Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo is an experience in gaudy wonderfulness. Something I’d never want to live in, not even for an overnight stay. But if you need to be transported to another era, actually several eras, this is a one-stop wonder. Better than Universal Studios.

As soon as you step inside, you’re enveloped in pink. Look down at your feet and pink roses stare back up from the carpet. Pink upholstery on the seats. The always popular pink champagne cakes sit very pink in the cabinets. The tablecloths and napkins in the steak house are pink too. Bubblegum pink with your medium rare rib-eye? Those are competing colors. Apparently it’s been working for 60 years. The doors leading to the kitchens have stained glass windows. The one in the steak house has a red rose. Now that’s more like it.

“I feel I’m inside a flock of flamingos, “Alf said. IMG_4214

Why pink, I asked myself. Turns out Alex Madonna liked the red upholstery in fancy restaurants of the day and he wanted the same look without copying it. So pink it was.

I’ve never liked the color pink. In my opinion it’s a faded red, a poor excuse for crimson, a blush of berry.

To decorate an entire restaurant with it is madness. But 60 years ago it was the destination for everyone driving to and from LA. Except truck drivers wouldn’t get caught dead in there.

It became a destination hot spot.

Shows you that taste isn’t everything.

Calvin says, “Slow down the judgment dearie, you’ve got some funky colors going on in our house.” beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SFO to JFK Not

 

As I prepared for my trip to New York, I received a text message notifying me my flight was cancelled the next morning. No explanations. No apologies. To call this 888 number. Which I did. Immediately.

After listening to computer prompts and squeaks and whistles I finally hear a human voice.

“My name is George. How can I help you?” George doesn’t sound like a robot or a foreigner.
“You canceled my flight, George,” I say.
“Only for your safety, ma’am,” he says.
“You mean New York tomorrow would have been hazardous to my health?”
“It’s for your protection,” he says. “May I have your last name?”
George pulls up my reservation. “I see you’re going to JFK.”
“Were going. Remember you canceled,” I said.
“We have another flight to JFK a bit later in the morning…oh wait, it’s full, no seats,” he says. “I can route you through LA and on a red eye.”
“I didn’t pay for all that suffering.”
“Let’s see San Francisco then. Oh, wait it has stops. You probably don’t want that. Too long for you.”
“This call is too long for me. Don’t you have other options?”
“Not if you want to land at JFK.”
“Try the Hamptons. I’d like that.”
“No Hamptons.”
“Martha’s Vineyard?”
“Martha’s on sabbatical.”
“Hey, how about New Jersey?” I say.
I hear the squeaks and whistles. George hangs up.

“Alaska’s running a third world airline,” I say to Alf. “I could have arrived at JFK by now.”
“What did you expect from an iceberg state? Their brains are frozen,” he says.
My phone rings. It’s George.
“George! How are you? I never expected to hear from you again. I thought I lost you for good. “
“No ma’am. You can’t lose me until we finish this reservation,” he says.
“Aw George. I didn’t know you cared,” I say.
“Yes ma’am. Alaska values your business. We want you to be happy with your experience.”
“Can you book me to Paris then?”
“We don’t fly there but some of our partners do, let me check…”
“No George! Just book me to New York.”
George recommends a flight into New Jersey. I take it. We say tearful farewells.

The next morning I emerge from security ready for my flight. The other passengers show up. We take up the entire gate area. My seat mate on my left was also on the canceled flight. I suspect there are many bumped passengers on this plane going to New Jersey even when we really wanted JFK. I’m suspicious, this is a clever way of filling the New Jersey flights because nobody wants to go there.

We anxiously wait for the boarding announcement. Suddenly a woman behind me says, “Oh no!”
I whip around. “What’s the matter?”
“Look at the board. Our flight isn’t leaving for another two hours.”
A collective groan goes up.
They tell us at first it’s thunderstorms. We check the weather map on our phones. You can’t fool the public anymore. Clear skies and bright sun. Then they tell us it’s finding a crew problem. A few minutes later two pilots show up and board. We sit there for another hour. Then the flight attendants show up and board. We continue to sit there. By now my seat mate to the right and I are becoming best friends. I hear her whole life story. Then another announcement. It’s the limited airspace over three airports that’s causing the delay. Flight control is delaying all flights to the East Coast. I’m suspicious again. I bet they have Millennials working things who don’t know how to stack planes in the right order yet.

Another announcement. “We’re having a paper plane contest. Anyone who wants to participate come to the counter for a sheet of paper,” the agent says. “At the time you should have taken off we’ll launch them. That way at least something gets off the ground this morning. The plane that flies the farthest gets a $25 voucher from us.” IMG_2999

I don’t know how to make a paper airplane but I want to play. “Will you build it and I’ll fly it?” I ask my seat mate to my left. He agrees and within minutes he hands me a beautiful paper plane that looks like the Concorde. Another passenger, clearly an engineer, builds an elaborate one that looks like the stealth bomber. He decides to test it. He launches it out by the corridor. It flies straight into a woman’s forehead with a vengeance. He apologizes and crawls back to his seat. The teenagers in the waiting area are furiously making theirs. One of them checks Google for directions. I embellish mine with the logo and Alaskan face on one wing. “New Jersey or bust!” on the other wing. The agent calls the race. We line up in a row. She puts the young kids in front. At her command she says, “Go!” Waiting passengers stand to watch. We launch our creations. A 10-year old wins. Everyone applauds. I hand my plane to the agent.

We go back to waiting. Even our captain can’t convince flight control to leave earlier. Finally, they call the flight. As I walk past the counter, my plane is displayed for all to see.

Calvin says, “That’s what you get for not taking me. They would have taken one look at me, fallen in love, given me treats, and escorted us straight to first class. Or maybe just me. You they would have kept in the squeeze section.

beagle

 

 

 

 

Security Details

I was overweight. Me and my luggage. The agent behind the airline counter said I should remove something otherwise it would cost me $200 in fees. “Do you do liposuction?” He had no sense of humor. I lugged the bag over to a scale and hoisted it on with all my might. I was only 7 pounds over the permissible 50. “Cut me some slack,” I thought with my heart pounding. I was facing a 14-hour flight. What was a measly 7 pounds? I looked over at him. He pointed to a sign that said, “50 lb. limit.” I pulled out my make-up bag. That did the trick. But now my purse was so heavy it threatened to pull my shoulder out of its socket.

Even with TSA pre-check and an escort from CLEAR, my purse was pulled off the conveyor belt for inspection. No kidding. It overflowed. The agents were looking for a sharp object. They decided it was the camera lens I was carrying for a friend. I knew it was my nail file and dagger attitude. IMG_3973

When I got to the gate, or tried to, there was another security check with pat downs, checking of bags and screening for chemicals on my clothes. I went through that twice. I ran upstairs to buy another purse to divide my overload in two places. Both times I had to go through security. That’s the price you pay to fly to Israel.

It made me ask why we don’t do this in all our airports. Why only on flights to Israel? It’s because Israel demands it. So why don’t we? We’re too lenient and too trusting. TSA isn’t going to catch every bad guy in the first run through. We need two screenings, especially one just before boarding. That way we can x-ray your therapy dog and your neck pillow.

Calvin says, “That would mean I’d get x-rayed again, and that slab of bacon I stole from the fridge would be discovered.” beagle