Monthly Archives: December 2008

Payback

Early December on reserve (where I have to “wait by the phone” to be cover a trip that someone else calls in sick/misses departure for) was quite easy. Work was so slow that they actually released me from duty for 5 days in a row! I think I’ve been released two times in my entire career previous to this! Then I was out sick for a few days. And when I returned, ohhhh. They got me good.

I got what is, I believe, the worst trip possible. A four day. Out of NEWARK. In and out of Miami several times. Any of these characteristics = [audible groan] from me. Put them all together and you have a suicidal flight attendant.

It took me almost 3 hours and $30 to take public transport from my NY apartment to Newark airport. Fun start. We flew to Miami and then to Caracas, Venezuela – where we landed at 1am and had an 11 hour layover. Mind you, unloading the passengers, clearing customs, transport to and from the hotel, check-in, and a 1-hour prior to departure report to the airplane…all squeeze into that time slot, along with as much sleep as one can grab.

I have been to Caracas about 5 times before. We used to have very long layovers there downtown. At night the city always looks beautiful, its mountainous terrain blanketed by scattered lamps, like fairy lights. In the morning, you are stunned to see that all of those dwellings were scattered shanty houses, the electricity “stolen” by means I am privileged enough to find exotic. I remember that everything was shockingly expensive, even if one pretended that most of its population didn’t live in such poverty. (A SUBWAY sandwich might cost $12 or so, if I remember correctly.) It was not shocking, however, to hear gunshots on occasion, from somewhere in the distance. Now we stay by the airport and most of the long layovers are gone. Our hotel is nice, with a gorgeous pool at the foot of a hill crowned by 2 pink cinder block “shanty” homes, decorated with lines of perpetually drying laundry.

The next morning we flew from Caracas back to Miami, then to Maracaibo (also Venezuela). Our layover was again 10 or 11 hours. The 3rd day we went back to Miami and on – finally – to a decent 15 hours layover on the island of St. Thomas. Boy, had we earned it!

Most of the islands are all the same to me: three pink or blue hotels, a golf course and some duty free shops. But here, our hotel is a 25 minute can ride through narrow, winding roads over a mountain. I loved getting to see more of the “local” side of the island, even if only in passing. Our rooms all faced the water and I had bought a heavenly sandwich, which I ate on my balcony overlooking the sea, St. Johns and other neighboring islands. Ahh…it felt worth it just then, even if too short. I walked down to the beach and climbed on the rocks in the break, where I stepped on my first sea urchin, due to the tide which was rolling in as a stood there, obstructing the view of my path with swirling, foamy water. All of this made me oddly cheerful.

After that, my 6am morning pickup didn’t seem to bad (though I HAD had enough of my miserable, constant crankpot of a colleague!). We made our way through Miami one last time, then home.

Tomorrow is New Year’s, and I have to sit by the phone again to see if I’m called. I’m not complaining though. The good thing about this trip is that it does make me feel happy and grateful though –  just to be sitting here…doing nothing.

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Date Night

Anyone who knows Del and I personally knows that we have quite a few things not in common. And though we might disagree on some of the more obvious things (most famously, politics), we do have in common some of the harder-to-find things (compared to my past dating experience).

For example, recently Del announced he’d like to see the Nutcracker for the Christmas season. While it was only playing locally on days I have to be gone to NYC for work, he said anyway, “Take a look at the Kennedy Center schedule. There’s something I think you’ll like.” First off, I don’t think any of that conversation would have happened with past partners.

While I hadn’t actually noticed it at first, he drew my attention to a performance titled “Clytemnestra”. Sure enough, this is right up my alley. Clytemnestra was the sister of Helen of Troy – and I am pretty crazy about the Trojan War mythology and that particular period of (real) history. The best thing was, Del had no idea who Clytemnestra even was! He just thought “the name looked Greek, like something you’d be interested in.” Let me point out that, her name isn’t just “Greek” (which could have been anyone over about a 2000 year period for all he knew), it happens to be connected to the very story of my fascination. Bullseye, honey!

If your mythology is rusty: the sisters, Clytemnestra and Helen, were married to brothers, Agamemnon and Menelaos – the two guys who led the rage to Troy. Clytemnestra took up with her hubby’s arch enemy when he was gone, and when he returned from war she killed him and his trophy Trojan mistress for sacrificing their youngest daughter before sailing off to Troy. In return, her son and other daughter killed her. Drama!) So yes, I was interested in the production. To the point, it turned out to be modern ballet. I have to say, I love dance, I love ballet. But modern dance? I’m a little wary of. My only exposure to it is in experimental exhibitions full of people in hippy stretch-clothes rolling on the floor at awkward angles. The sort of jazz-music of dance. I was really unsure if he would be willing to risk money on a ticket to see this thing. But we agreed we’d give it a shot.

And it was great. I mean, I don’t want to see modern ballet everyday. But it was interesting to see. Of course I was into the story (and I could impress/help Del by filling him on on all the details). But most of all, I enjoyed having a partner who was willing to take me to such a thing.  None my past partners were very culturally open-minded, so that seems like a precious thing to have in common. Besides, Del and I have such a good time when we do these random things together.

So it was date night. Del, in charge of the practical details, got us there 2 1/2 hours early! The restaurant was closed, and my (new, unbroken-in) heels were tearing up my feet so I couldn’t walk around too much. We killed time by lingering on the huge terrace and I took a few night photos of the thick fog blanketing the Potomac River, which backs up to the Kennedy Center. Then we  sat in the cafe and drank overpriced cava from plastic cups. I kept saying, “if we weren’t already engaged I’d be sure that this was the night.” And we toasted to that.

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Playing Tag

So it appears I’ve been tagged, by my friend Stella. I’ll cut and paste the rules from her page, cause I’m too lazy to rewrite them myself:

1. Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people (if possible) at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs.

So here goes nothing:

1) I’m too lazy to rewrite 4 rules myself (see above).

2) When I was a child I noticed that my dad often said things with others that I didn’t understand. When this happened, they told me he was speaking French. So I concluded that everything that came out of one’s mouth was either English or French. I wanted to be in on this group very badly, so I’d approach my parents and spout gibberish, then ask them, “What’d I just say?” (Because I didn’t understand what I’d said, I naturally concluded that by default I must have spoken French!) I got very frustrated when they’d look at me with bewilderment and tell me I’d said “nothing”.

3) One day when I was quite young, my mother tried to help me with my homework, and instead of listening to her tell me how to turn an “o” into an “a” (so I didn’t have to erase it make a mess of my neat homework), I was impatient and just erased it. She sighed. I still feel guilty about not listening and letting her help me, because she really wanted to.

4) Sometimes it seems I only feel guilty about the most inconsequential things (see #3 and my last post).

5) I’d love to make a living off my writing, but I’m bored by the business end of it.

6) My friends and I once tried to dig a hole to China, in the Davis’ back yard. We only got far enough to annoy them, then erect a top cover and use it as a fort instead.

7) When I hear about people having cancer I think, “Oh my God, that must be terrifying,” and I cannot fathom that I’ve been through that very thing. And not so long ago.

Who will I tag? Just five people. (I don’t have so many blogging friends! Many of my friends think I’m some sort of computer geek/expert – which just goes to show how “analogue” they are. You see what I did there? I sound computer geeky by using “analogue”. But that’s just some techno-slang a made up because I’m a decent poser. Does that count as fact #8? :-))

Amy in Brussels

Lisa – childhood friend and photographer extraordinaire

Joel at Manners Thoughts

Sarah Street Sprucehill

Law Mom

Have fun, y’all!

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Filed under breast cancer, humor

Encounters

A few days ago I was working a flight from Paris back to the US. I was in coach, and we were packed to the gills. We had already completed the first drink service for the entire cabin, as well as the 2nd round with lunch. Now I was pulling the 300 pound cart to the front of the cabin for the 3rd and final round of drinks and tray pick-up. As I put on the break, a man in the third row waved lightly to get my attention and pointed the the tray of the girl next to him. I thought he said (something to the effect of) “take her tray”.

I did that thing where I reply with perfect politeness on the surface, but you can read between the lines to see that I think you’re being annoying; perhaps I am even scolding you. I said something like, “Of course, Sir. But I haven’t done so because we’ve been busy feeding everyone else in the cabin as well. Now that we’re done with that, that’s what we’re back for – to take your trays. So just hang on one minute and I’ll get to you.” He said “Ok” very politely. So I clear the trays and serve drinks to the first two rows, then get to him and I say, now with a fresh smile, “Now, what may I get for you sir?” And he points again to the girl’s tray and says, “May I please have a dinner?”

Somehow we had missed him, and he had been sitting there very patiently, and I had completely misunderstood him. I felt terrible! And he had been so gracious about it. It was clear that he was a veeeery nice man. I apologized sincerely and gave him a few glasses of wine to make up for it. He seemed happy with this, but I felt like I couldn’t do enough. (It also happens that my colleague said “Oh good, I already meant to tell you we should give him drinks because [he had some drama] at the beginning of the flight too.” Apparently, he was having a rough travel day all around.)

I tried to give him a little extra attention (without fussing) and as he walked off the plane at the end, we spoke a little. Turns out we were both catching the last flight to DC (I didn’t get on and spent the night in NYC, by the way…so goes the life of a commuter.) and he said “I’m giving a speech in DC tomorrow, at the National Geographic Society. I’m a photographer,” to which he invited me. First off, I love National Geographic! I also love photography, and any person associated with the two has to be someone fascinating.
panjshir_valley-1
reza
Photos by Reza

Turns out the man was a quite big-time photographer (and humanitarian) named Reza. He was introduced by his friend Sebastian Junger (best known as author if The Perfect Storm, though he’s done much notable journalism work), and as soon as Reza began a slide show of some of his images, my friend and I were stunned – as we had certainly seen his work before. For 90 minutes he told the stories behind individual photos, and they were all more interesting than any I could have made up.

Here’s a man who spends most of his year in the mountains of Afganistan or with famine-sufferers in Somalia. No wonder he isn’t too bothered by getting his dinner late, or us having run out of choice, nor initially being so-wrongly scolded. This is a man who surely has a fierce grasp on the important things in life. Somehow, that makes me feel all the more guilty.

ainaboy_afghanistan

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Filed under life, this time THIS year, work