Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Europe 2009: Berlin to Seattle (Monday, August 3)

I slept poorly last night.  No disco music on Sunday night, but the cough was just making me miserable.  Good hydration helps, but a good bed does as well.  After a couple hours, I went out to the common room and slept there on the couch for a few hours, then back to my room a bit after dawn.

I aimed to leave at 9:00 to catch my 11:25 flight, but didn’t get out the door until almost 9:15.  And it was raining.  That makes for interesting bookends to the trip, having the first and last days be in the rain, plus the rain midway, on Thursday in Copenhagen.

Long, long flight from Berlin to JFK.  I dozed here and there, through parts of all three movies (The Soloist, Monsters vs. Aliens, and Duplicity); I’ve seen the second and had no real interest in the others.  At least they do feed you on the trans-Atlantic flights (for now, anyway), although Delta wanted to charge me $50 for the second piece of luggage, so it became a heft-and-carry-on.  I also worked on the trip report a bit and read a few Fantastic Four issues (from a collection from the end of Lee/Kirby run; little to write home about in those issues).

The entire trip, I’ve been re-reading Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City, the omnibus collection of the first three volumes.  I think this is my third time though this volume, although it’s hard to divorce it from my past viewings of the three mini-series, so it might only be my second time through; I’m pretty sure I’ve only read the second omnibus once.  My boyfriend and I have been watching them and are about 2/3 through the second mini-series.  I’m right now 1/3 through the third book, right where the DeDe and Prue storylines are about to intersect.  I recall how fucking spooked I was by this book the first time through, since the real-world events that preceded it are some of the first Current Events things that I recall growing up, around age 13.

I have been struck by how much these books are not only products of their time, but also signposts of the mid-70s and beyond.  Beyond the faked (and sometimes simply veiled) society people that Maupin uses, the books (especially the first one) are massively laced with references to current events (the Zodiac Killer), San Francisco (a particular North Beach meat vendor is name checked several times), and pop culture (Pet Rocks, EST, the Walkman, etc.), and of course gay stuff is threaded through everything.  It makes me want to have (or produce) a The Annotated Tales of the City, with footnotes and Wiki entries expanding on all the references.

I’m also aware that Maupin went back to the original newspaper columns and changed things around when compiling them into a book.  What was removed — were plotlines abandoned, were characters dropped?  And what was added?  I presume, for example, that the pivotal destination comment from D’Orothea at the end of the second book — which totally freaked me out when I initially read it — was a book-aimed revision, since it’s a bit too prescient otherwise.  But it would be nice to know for sure.

Customs was done at JFK, and it was a zoo.  They herded us and people from another flight or two like cattle, into a long hallway.  I could see a couple hundred in front of me, and more behind me, all stopped at some barrier.  Perversely, all I could think of was Holocaust references, spotting the sprinkler system shower head above us.  (Maybe I’m sicker than I think.)  I couldn’t find my pen, so I hadn’t filled out the customs form, so once I got to the customs desk, I had to go back over there to get a pen from the airline rep, but she wasn’t a rep and directed me back over there to get a pen from the airline rep, but she wasn’t one either and directed me to get one from an airline rep.  And which point I had a brief explosion — “There isn’t any airline rep!” “I’m sorry, I don’t have a pen, sir” — despite that I could see two in her pocket.  “I’ll help you once the line lets up” as she ushered another 20 people into the room, with no sign of the stream stopping.  She eventually gave me a pen (and I properly gave it back when I was done), and then I had to wait for 200 people in front of me to go through, rather than the 20 who were there earlier.

Utterly destroyed whatever assumed German accent I had left, let me tell you!

Showed that guy my passport.  Filed into the next room.  Showed someone my passport.  Got my bag.  Showed someone my passport.  Dropped off my back for moving to the next flight.  Showed someone my passport.  (Jesus Christ!)  And then they had only one lane open for security check for people going to connecting flights, with a couple hundred to go through it.  They now make us take our shoes off and put them through not in a bin with anything else — even baby shoes have to go on the belt by themselves — which only slows things that much further.  What do they expect to accomplish with this shit other than making people not want to fly, which will only make the airlines have that many fewer customers and complain about costs that much more?

I have no fucking sympathy for the airlines.  Not one shred.  I actively hope a couple of the big ones go under, and gloriously so.  (United, please.  Can’t stand them anyway.)  They’ll blame the consumers, of course, but they’re the ones at fault.  That’s what it will take to wake them and TSA up.

JFK is apparently so crowded for flights that they have to use non-gates.  My flight was at Gate 77, but the signage was for Gates 1-12 and B-something, nothing near “77”.  Turns out that Gate 77 means the plane is parked out on the tarmac and they use a huge people mover to get you to it.  So they loaded us all on it… and then made us sit for as much as 30 minutes, waiting for I don’t know what (late passengers, I guess).  Finally disgorged us onto the plane… and then made us sit, waiting for I don’t know what (late passengers, I guess).  Our 5:00 flight didn’t end up leaving until just before 6:00 pm.

(In Amsterdam’s airport, they announce your name and say you are delaying the flight, and that if you don’t show up right way, they will remove your luggage from the plane.  Good threat, especially if the actually carry through on it.  They should try it in the States.)

I debated getting food at JFK.  If I do, they’ll feed us; if I don’t, they won’t.  Looks like I made the right call and got a piece of pizza (which thoroughly cooled by the time we got onto the plan, grrr), since peanuts will be the only thing we’ll get on the plane.  (Mmm, make that pretzels.  Peanuts are persona non grata on airplanes these days; someone might have an allergy.)  And we’ve been airborne for almost 90 minutes without even beverage service yet.  (You can tell I’m a happy traveler when I’m sick and need hydration badly.)

My boyfriend will be picking me up at the airport.  Hope our late departure will be made up and we’ll get home close to on time.  I’m trying to not nap so I can collapse into bed with him tonight and get good solid sleep.

Updated on February 9, 2010

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