Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Ghetto Air Era

During our early teenage years, my best friend and I fantasized about hanging out at our local airport as soon as we got our driver’s licenses. Our plans included making appearances at the soft pretzel stand, joyriding up and down the moving walkways, and supervising the taxiing planes from our window perches.

Since then, I’ve done time in a lot of airports and on a lot of aircrafts and have stopped taking this whole industry too seriously. My dad has told me about the heyday of commercial air travel, back when “flying used to be a pleasure.” Even I can remember what it was like to jet-set in the mid-‘90s through the mid-2000s and not have to pay for checked-in luggage or tote around my own bag of nuts to stave off in-flight hunger pangs. If I ever fall into money, my second or third large-scale luxury purchase will have to be a very private jet that can accommodate backyard pickups.

I couldn’t afford a non-stop flight to Seattle last week, which meant another borderline ordealish round-trip cross-country journey. At an overpriced lunch at O’Hare during a 4-hour layover, a chilly Chili’s waitress judgmentally carded me for a midday margarita. A series of gruff flight attendants (whose airline can’t be bothered to gate-check larger carry-on items) busted up my once-beautiful TJ Maxx rolling suitcase by re-jamming it into the overhead bins in ways that would “make it work.” Right before one connecting flight’s take-off, a medium-grade passenger riot erupted immediately behind me, due to the outrage surrounding the aging swinger in 15B’s use of an entire overhead compartment to daintily lay out his tuxedo. There was a special pre-landing announcement: “If we need to make an emergency evacuation, please don’t bring your carry-ons with you.” That had to have been directed at Monsieur 15B – we all knew he would hold up any harrowing emergency exiting procedures by bumbling around for and maniacally safeguarding his trifling tux during a potentially fatal water landing.

Every single connecting flight was packed to full capacity with the dazed and disgruntled, and I can’t tell if the seats in coach are getting smaller or if I’m getting bigger. On one connecting flight, my seatmate spent the better part of our 4-hour union unsubtly craning his neck to read the pages of my opened book. The words at the very top of the last page he scanned were: “MOTHERFUCKER! MOTHERFUCKER! I can yell. MOTHERFUCKERMOTHERFUCK! It’s a kidney stone. I wake up and am drugged.”

After returning to Laguardia, there was an unstable-sounding woman sitting behind me on the city bus that goes into Upper Manhattan. A Rihanna song blasted from her headphones, and she unselfconsciously sang along to most of it, all off-key. I looked up when she later passed by - it was one of the flight attendants from my final connecting flight.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Enumerating the Real Priorities

Two people in my midst brought up their “bucket lists” last week. Bucket lists are personal lists of things to do before you’ve got the Grim Reaper on your ass, and I’m sick of hearing about them. That’s the line of thinking that spawned the compilation of my “Fuck-It List.”

Unfortunately, I’m not the first rhyming pisser to have come up with this term. Go ahead and Google “Fuck-It List” to catch a glimpse of just how many have beaten me to the creditably caustic punch. Since beating them is no longer an option, I’m honored to join them - what follows is a non-exhaustive list of things I will NOT do before I die:

1. Stop eating meat
2. Have a blessed day
3. Wear high heels
4. Set foot in the state of Arizona without a bulletproof vest, a bulletproof hat, and a licensed civil rights attorney at my side
5. Cut back on the cursing
6. Remain neutral
7. Snorkel
8. Suck up to management
9. Pay someone to clean my house or do my laundry
10. Quit while I’m ahead

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Life as a Brainwashee

As an on-again, off-again recreational runner, I’m more likely to keep the habit going if I have something to “train for.” A few weeks ago I registered for a 5K in Central Park, scheduled for yesterday morning, and sponsored by a group that supposedly puts entry-fee proceeds toward ballroom dancing lessons for inner-city schoolchildren.

Shorty got her jaded ass up at 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday for this. I ran a couple of road races in 2007, neither of which involved rising with the sun, and both of which delivered some exciting paraphernalia, such as official scoring chips to tie into my shoelaces, unlimited bagels and fruit at the finish line, and T-shirts (one of them long-sleeved).

The ballroom dancers look down on such frivolous fanfare. According to their website, in the interest of carbon-footprint reduction, no welcome bags or T-shirts would be on hand at this 5K because “people have been brainwashed by our society to take home a tangible item [from] every event they attend. This is asinine . . .”

I’ve never thought of myself as even gullible, so the cult leaders must have quite a hold on me - I get off from collecting at least one tangible souvenir from every function that has been at least partially funded by my hard-earned money. I still wear my T-shirts from the 2007 road races - not in public; but they’re comfortable to lounge in while awaiting my next set of mind-control directives.

Yesterday’s run was slated to begin at 8 a.m. When I arrived at the starting point at 7:41, no one else was there. There was no tent or sign-in table; no banners or balloons. By 7:55 about 10 other registrants were milling about in full-on “What the Fuck?” mode. It was troubling that, if this thing ever took off, there would be so few participants. With most NYC road races, you’re one of hundreds (sometimes thousands) of other runners, so it’s easy (and part of the fun) to get lost in the crowd. Whereas an 11-person road race would be more like a road chase. The two fitness guru-looking dudes (“wanna go to the gym after this?” one of them asked the other after they had jogged up to the meeting place together) would lead the pack in an effortless sprint, while the rest of us would frantically hustle to avoid being the last person to cross the finish line. But, in the end, there was no need to worry about pulling up this caravan’s rear, as the show did not go on.

At 8:05, after saying my goodbyes to the person I’d been standing around bitching with since 7:46, I rolled into Dunkin’ Donuts, drank a large coffee, and went back to bed.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Surreal Housewives of Westchester County

I break out of NYC every chance I get and spent this past weekend in the suburbs, visiting one of my married-with-children friends. On Saturday afternoon, we went to a two-year-old’s birthday party at a Gymboree-style merriment center that features a big room full of things to safely bounce around on. I couldn’t wait – there’s no better place to get an above-average-quality piece of cake than a rich toddler’s birthday bash. If you know how to work it, 1 mouth-watering piece can seamlessly turn into 2, and then 3. But on the drive over, my friend solemnly warned me that we were about to spend the next couple of hours with some serious assholes.

Where I come from, the hosts of a party are supposed to warmly (or at least fakely) greet, and go through the motions of catching up with, all of their guests. Especially at an event that’s for the children. This birthday boy’s parents marched to the beat of a drum that shouldn’t ever be available on the market. The dad whiled away the time talking shop with the handful of other dads who showed up, as the mom was talking shit with her fellow Stepford Wives-in-training.

My friend was the only working mom in the room and probably one of the only working moms at her son’s preschool. Moms who have held onto their careers are still viewed suspiciously in this community. I grew up in a suburb that’s similar to this one and, although my townsfolk had significantly stronger social skills than these former Manhattanites, there was the same flavor of unspoken tension between the moms who worked full-time and the moms who didn’t. There are members of each group who second-guess the choices they’ve made to the point of developing an inferiority complex that’s publicly projected as a superiority complex in an attempt to save face. Now that there are finally more stay-at-home dads in the picture, it’ll be interesting to see if and how this dynamic shifts. But if the dads who were at this party represent any indication of what’s to come, the future is sure to be as comical as the horrified expression on one of their wives’ faces as she watched her giggling daughter fall onto a well-cushioned mat from no higher than two feet up.

These kids’ moms sequestered themselves from us workers at their own loss. There’s a lot we could have contributed to their loud, impassioned, wild-eyed conversations, particularly the one about multigrain tortilla chips. The consensus was that Whole Foods is the most respectable place to buy a bag. I’ve been boycotting Whole Foods for about 11 months, and it made me smile to imagine how much wilder all of their eyes would have become if I had explained the reasoning behind my resistance.