Tag Archives: Travel

Please STEP ASIDE (It Could LITERALLY Save Your Life)

Please STEP ASIDE (It Could LITERALLY Save Your Life)

airplane-the-movie-that-launched-1000-spoofs-is-35-years-old-take-a-look-back-at-just-h-486780One result of the many changes in my life this past year is that I now commute between states on a fairly regular basis (every 2 weeks or so) and have to fly to do it. I know you’d think someone of my stature and fame would be doing that via private jet, but it appears that Alaska Airlines did not message that out to the numerous degenerates who muck up my airplane and hijack the valuable time of my pilot and staff with their ridiculous demands.

I think we can all agree that flying, especially when forced to mix with the likes inhabiting steerage, is not the most pleasant experience one could come up with. Surveys show it is often a close second behind prison rape. I imagine that is probably a little less pleasant.

Now that I am living this peripatetic lifestyle (and yes, I Googled the shit out of that word) I have been witness to every flavor of traveler that exists.

As such, in order to keep myself out of jail for any number of assault charges, I always have a little one-on-one with myself before starting this process by deciding I will simply have a smile on my face throughout the travel day, no matter what. The result is that I look slightly dazed and more-than-slightly unhinged (both of which are actually true under any circumstance). But, the response is usually either one of a returned smile and pleasantry or fear and avoidance, either of which I gladly take on a travel day.

After all, my mom used to always say that you catch more flies with honey.

As an aside, I’ve always thought that was a disturbing saying. Flies are filthy insects who gather on piles of fecal matter because that is like their version of an all-you-can-eat buffet. Then after they’ve had their disgusting bacchanalia, having covered themselves in all matter of disease, decide it would be a riot to buzz around your head before landing squarely on your food to wipe off their gunked up feet. So, really, if we are to be accurate, you can actually catch more flies with shit than honey.

This is a statistical fact

You can keep your god-damned flies!

At any rate, one of the occasional bright spots in all of this is when I do my online check-in and that beautiful, blue and green harbinger of hope shines brightly in the top left corner of my boarding pass:

This seemingly small but life-changing symbol is literally my favorite thing on earth – sorry kids, but Mommy needs this!

I know, I know. If I just took a month off to navigate the catacombs of the Homeland Security process to get this done permanently, life could always be sunny. Have you not been listening? I’M A VERY BUSY PERSON!! “Making a Murderer” isn’t going to binge watch itself, people!

The biggest reason pre-check means the world to me is not because I don’t like taking my shoes off in public or shoving my endless liquid beauty products into Lilliputian sized containers. It’s because the level of idiocy that presents itself around that security conveyor belt turns me into a raving lunatic.

So I ask you all this.

Nay, I beg of you!

Can we, as a people, as a civilized race, PLEASE agree to move aside from the conveyor belt to re-dress and put our shit away?

Just gather up all your stuff and STEP ASIDE. They even provide perfectly nice benches and tables, sometimes only 10 feet away, for you to manage your shoes, belts, liquids and computers, out of harms way. Because, you are clearly unaware that I am looming right behind you, ready to stab you in the back of the knee, if you do not STEP THE FUCK ASIDE.

Listen, I’m already letting you on my private jet and allowing my staff to be at your disposal. The very least you all can do is STEP ASIDE.

Seriously.

STEP. THE. FUCK. ASIDE.

Thank you for your attention and enjoy your flight.

Top Knots, Amish Beards and Comfort Food – A Love Letter To Portland

Top Knots, Amish Beards and Comfort Food – A Love Letter To Portland

 

I am an Oregonian. I say that with no small amount of pride because I love the Northwest in general and Portland specifically. That city is my soul mate. It’s inhabited by such a variety of humanoids that it sometimes smacks of the bar scene from Star Wars.

I love every one of those freaky bastards!

But, here’s the terrible tragedy in my love affair with Portland.

The weather kind of sucks ass.

You see, emotionally I wear Gortex and fleece. My psyche and humor reside in a dark and rainy place.

By stark contrast however, physically, I am a giant weather pussy. Shorts and a t-shirt or death. I eschew the very thought of socks and shoes.

The thing about Portland is that while the people and it’s environs can look dark and, often, grim, in reality they are exceptionally sunny of disposition. Which flies in the face of the stereotype that Northerners are all Kafka-esque, alcoholic Nihilists who suffer from seasonal affective disorder.

Nay, these are a friendly, helpful, welcoming and honest tribe who read a lot and compost even more.

And I, just like Oscar Wilde, have been exiled from my home land. Except that he was an amazing writer. And he was exiled for sodomy and gross indecency. I guess I could cop to the gross indecency but you can keep your sodomy thank you very much.

Lest I sound ungrateful, I do live in a very beautiful place. The sun shines pretty much every day and 70-75 degrees with a pleasant breeze of 0 MPH out of the North is de rigueur. (Along with throwing out the occasional snooty French term to prove you are wealthy and well-travelled.)

But, you are not going to see the chunky human soup here that you will see in Portland.

A clown wearing a kilt and combat boots while weeding the community garden? What of it?

A woman who looks remarkably like Betty Paige whilst sporting a Betty Paige tat across her back with an ironic and Escher sort of vibe? All women (and many transvestites) in Portland look like Betty Paige.

Here are a few other delightful and singular quirks about my beloved City of Roses.

The men’s top knot – Here’s your situation. You are running late to bartend at the new badminton/karaoke/tequila bar you work at called “Flick”. But, your exceptionally long tresses that brush your vintage rockabilly belt buckle are in the way.

Do you:

A) Cut them off to free you of the burden?

Or

B) Twist them up into a head bun ala Black Swan?

Obviously, you are going to go with option B. Cut off your hair??? Not even possible! What are you, high? And, if so, quit bogarting.

Facial follicles – Just when you think there is only so much one can do with face hair, you walk down Burnside Avenue and a whole new world is opened up to you. Big mustaches, done that. Retro mutton chops, yawn. The Amish beard, or “face mullet”, well, that’s still kind of cool…to the Amish anyway. Is that a dude with The Rachel on his face walking into The Doug Fir Lounge? Why, yes. It certainly is. Bold move, my man! Well played!

Which brings us to vintage comfort foods. Portland loves it’s eclectic food combinations and genre-specific trends. Like a Yoo-Hoo and Hamburger Helper tapas bar. I don’t know if it exists, but it should.

Allow me to illustrate the depths of the emotional investment Portlanders (Portlandians? Portlandists? The Portlandic?) feel for their food.  The following is a real-life tragic tale that recently occurred one evening at a fine establishment on SE Division Avenue during dinner.

The young adorable nerd (adora-nerd?) looked solemnly through his horn-rimmed glasses and toyed with one of his lip studs.

“I have some terrible news about our menu tonight.”

We sat back and girded ourselves for some horrific story of severed fingers or a devastating kitchen fire.

“Our waffle maker is broken.”

I actually believe I saw a small tear forming on the inside of his left eye.

“And what’s even worse,” he continued, “our back up waffle maker also isn’t working.”

They have a back up waffle maker?

“So, I’m so sorry but any items on the menu that have a waffle involved will now be replaced with johnnycakes instead. I’m so sorry.”

We all look at each other and murmur our understanding of the situation to our forlorn little hipster as he slinks away.

“Wow, he was really upset about that. Should someone go see how he is holding up? Maybe we should buy him a card.”

So, in closing, I leave you with a quote from my 11-year-old son upon our return from a recent visit to PDX.

“You know what I like best about Portland, Mom? I like that no one cares what other people think about them. I think that’s why everyone is so happy and friendly.”

Could not have said it better myself.

If Lazy Were An Olympic Sport – My Time With Elite Runners

If Lazy Were An Olympic Sport – My Time With Elite Runners

The other day Jim happened to mention to me in passing that he had signed us up to crew for his sister for a 100-mile ultra-marathon.

“Really?” I asked.

“Yep. It’ll be fun!”

“Fun? Really?”

“Yes. Fun. We’ll hike into remote areas of the Sierra Mountains and bring her stuff she needs.”

“Stuff like a ride in a car to whatever her destination is? She knows there are cars, right?”

Then he just rolled his eyes at me and mumbled as he left the room.

Why would someone run 100 miles (yes, I said MILES, not pansy-ass KILOMETERS) in the wilderness unless you were being chased by an axe murderer?

Or you are part of the Donner Party….who were probably too weak to actually run the 100 miles. Unless one of the fatter ones was trying to get away.

I tried to get into the mindset of someone who would do this for the challenge and the fun of it. This is not an easy task for one such as me. I don’t push my endurance, I lay on a soft bed of Egyptian cotton with it.

These are the elite lunatics who do shit like climb Mt. Everest, helicopter ski and cliff dive. They, like James Bond, have a taste for danger.

By stark contrast, I’ll take my rape whistle with me to take the garbage out. And I live in a very nice neighborhood. I do not flirt with fear and danger.

I blow my rape whistle at it.

Jim’s not a ton tougher than I am. He once ran, panicked, in our front door and double locked it because he saw a raccoon in our front yard. He swears it charged him. But, since raccoons do not have opposable thumbs, I wasn’t sure what the purpose of the double lock was.

We are simply a cautious people.

But, I gamely went along, cuz’ no one is going to call me a pussy, however accurate it might be. Plus Jim double-dog-dared me and no one walks away from THAT!

At the orientation meeting with all the runners I found myself in a sea of the sinewy. I know I have more body fat in my left butt cheek than all of them combined. A few looked kind of like Dobby the house elf in really good gear.

Give me my race bib, bitch.

These are a steely-eyed group with laser-sharp focus. Like me at the Nordstrom Half-Yearly Sale. So, I totally get them.

As is my way, I was much more concerned about my performance in this run than I was about our runner. I considered this the Olympics of project management.

Jim and I were ready. We had our Ziploc baggies (a staple for any and all project management work) packed and marked appropriately. We were like a SWAT team of efficiency.

However, the weather sucked ass. Usually, this is a very hot run so I don’t think anyone was really prepared for the freezing temps and driving rain that hit us.

You may think that we would not complain about being cold and wet as we stood waiting at checkpoints but you’d be so wrong. Yes, you could say we had it pretty easy in comparison to the runners, and I could punch you in the head with my frozen hand. But none of this would deter us from bitching about it anyway!

Because, after all, this was all about us.

But, as the day went on we found ourselves talking to other race crews, watching runners come through checkpoints, and really getting into the spirit of camaraderie that this sport fosters.

After all, every one of these deranged individuals had family and friends cheering them on and I found myself cheering for all of them as well.

It’s kind of like the Special Olympics for super fit nutjobs.

While I am well aware that this is a race and someone has to win, it did seem like no one really loses. If you have the gigantic balls to even sign up for this thing, you’ve gone beyond the average out of the gate.

I, on the other hand, do not possess balls of a gigantic or any other nature either literally or figuratively.

But, in the sport of relaxation and self-indulgence, I am the ultra-marathon equivalent.

Can someone cheer for me now?

Sexual Delusions in Portland – Who Wouldn’t Want to Tap This?

Sexual Delusions in Portland – Who Wouldn’t Want to Tap This?

Back when I was super cool and lived in Portland, Oregon, Jim and I used to go out to tons of music venues to mix with the tattooed, pierced and alternative Portland element.

We were in a limbo of wanting to be those people and yet ensure our kids didn’t grow up to be them.

We would attempt to go undercover, hiding our suburban, parental underbelly but we missed the whole “ink” craze so our consistently flesh colored flesh made us stick out like Amish at a car show.

We began to compromise a bit because we couldn’t find babysitters who would stay until 3AM and, let’s face it, we were just too tired.

Enter Aimee Mann. I do love her. She has that mix of catchy tunes and pissed off lyrics that make you feel like you are retaining some sort of edge. She does say fuck so there is some street cred there.

So, we went to see her perform at one of the groovy, divey spots PDX is known for.

We took our seats and struck up a conversation with the nice couple next to us. He was all sorts of Portland middle-aged cool sporting a shaved head and a soul patch and she had a veritable kaleidoscope of colors streaked through her hair.

They were very chatty and we talked about all the liberal politics we wanted.

By the way, it is illegal to not be liberal in Portland. Go look it up. They put you in a re-training camp if they catch you at the city border.

This keeps the citizenry safe to have deep political conversations in line at the grocery store without fear of debate.

The night was off to a great start. Except for this one weird thing.

Jim and I both got this decidedly weird vibe. It was nothing anyone said but we both just had this feeling that they were a little too into us….in a kind of pervy way.

I have no idea where this came from. If you know us, you know we are not normally the types to go around with delusions of our sex appeal.

Maybe we’ve seen The Ice Storm too many times. Or maybe they were super high.

We were both oddly suspicious of this perfectly nice, if not overly friendly couple and assumed they were trolling for a wife swap/swinger situation.

Keep in mind that this has NEVER actually happened to us before.

Once the lights dimmed and Aimee was introduced, we settled into the concert and for 90 minutes or so forgot about our vortex of sexuality.

After the concert ended, our new friends/lovers said they would like to get together some time for a meal. Jim and I shot a nervous look to each other.

Is “meal” like a secret term similar to tapping your foot three times on an airport bathroom stall to indicate you are open to a BJ?

The man handed me his business card and said to give him a call to set up something. I took it and slid it into my pocket. We said our goodbyes and off into the rainy night we went.

They did seem a little dodgy about what they did for a living, as tends to be the case with Portlandians in general, and there was an odd symbol with very little explanation on the card.

We were intrigued so proceeded to Google stalk them.

A few searches later we came up with what the symbol was….

It turned out they were Freemasons.

See, we clearly get our information about how the world works from movies because all I could think of was The Da Vinci Code.

Why was it a “secret society” and what exactly were the “rituals”? Did they have a room in their split level suburban house that was dedicated to afore mentioned rituals?  Were they looking to take down the Catholic Church? Did they wear hooded robes and chant?

And, more importantly, were Freemasons swingers?

Sadly, we never found out. Day to day life swallowed us up and we never got to do a wife swap with the Freemasons (who has the time, really?) and to this day we are still sketchy on what Freemasons even are. Which I suppose is the point of it being a “secret” and all.

We also are relieved and yet a little disappointed that we are not, as suspected, utterly irresistible to anyone but ourselves. So rest easy, for you are all safe from our vortex of sexuality.

At least for now….

I Almost Killed a Small Thai Lady

I Almost Killed a Small Thai Lady

Here’s the question: Is it better to get a bad massage rather than no massage at all?

Up until my trip to Thailand, I would have said any massage was wonderful. However, I soundly retract this statement now that I have had a Thai massage.

Most people who know me would expect that if I were to end up in a Thai prison, it would be for being a drug mule rather than murdering a small Thai lady while in a psychopathic rage.

I hope no one actually put money on this but I suspect a few of you have.

I spent a month in Thailand years ago and it was a wonderful experience, overall. The Thai people not only made me feel happy and welcome, they made me feel like a giant. And I’m only 5’4”.

When reading up on all the awesome things to experience in Thailand, the very specialized form of Thai massage was brought up time and again. Being the total spa whore I am, I was all “sign me up!”

So roughly mid-way through my trip I found myself on the floor of a small room, dressed in loose fitting clothes and lying on an uncomfortable bamboo mat.

A miniscule, smiling Thai woman came into the room and said something I did not understand. At the time I gathered she was asking me if I’ve ever had a Thai massage before but I think she was actually asking me if I was prepared to meet my maker.

I laid face down so couldn’t see what she was up to back there but felt my fight or flight response begin to kick in.

She climbed on top of my butt with her knees and started to do a sort of dog walk up my body balancing on her knees and pointy little elbows.  OK, that’s uncomfortable but I’m here to experience this lovely culture so bring it.

Then, she sat and straddled my back, grabbed my ankles and started to bend my legs in all sorts of unnatural ways like I was Gumby…a very frightened and freaked out Gumby…psychologically curled into a fetal position…weeping.

We westerners are a tightly wound and stiff people and I’d like to keep it that way.

This went on for about an hour before she unceremoniously flipped me onto my back. For a person her size, she had freakish strength.

Figuring I was done, I began to get up but she pushed me back down, gazing at me with an angelic smile on her face. She was starting to look like The Joker. Heath Ledger joker, NOT friendly Cesar Romero joker.

I wish….

 

….what I got.

There was more to come.

She climbed onto my stomach, patted it and said “baby?”

Are you fucking kidding me?? I know that compared to you, I am the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man but now I’m feeling fairly vulnerable.

First you beat the shit out of me and now you call me fat? I can get this kind of treatment just by getting in my time machine and going back to Jr. High.

When I said No, she giggled. Really, bitch?

My rage mounted as she proceeded to continue the abuse on the front of me. She went through and cracked every one of my fingers and toes. Contorted my limbs and pulled my ears.

At one point I felt like I was in a Three Stooges movie. All I needed was a poke in the eye and a “nyuk, nyuk, nyuk”.

This woman weighed only slightly more than a kindergartener but I was using all my will to not punch her in the throat. I am a pacifist by nature but the surge of violence that went through me was startling.

I’m not sure, but I think this might be what it feels like to take bath salts…maybe I was more prepared for the zombie apocalypse than I thought.

Two hours later I limped from the room feeling like I had narrowly escaped death at the hands of a sadistic Thai Lilliputian masseuse.

My enlightened friends told me I just needed to do it on a more continual basis to really feel the great benefits and that I should add in some hot yoga as well.

I smiled at them (my Heath Ledger joker smile, not the friendly Cesar Romero) and soundly flipped them all off.

 

When Irish Eyes Are Blurry – My Time at Microsoft Part Deux

When Irish Eyes Are Blurry – My Time at Microsoft Part Deux

Other people have a nationality. The Irish and the Jews have a psychosis.
– Brendan Behan

I’m troubled, I’m dissatisfied. I’m Irish!
– Marianne Moore

I thought it might be time to circle back to the next chapter in my Microsoft adventure.

We left off with my landing in the international translation group at Microsoft after a corporate reorganization. Now, keep in mind that I do not speak any other languages other than “Another drink, please” in almost every tongue on earth as if I were a native.

This linguistic talent does not qualify me to run a program for a major corporation that involves finding and managing local international vendors for culturally sensitive translation services. For a lot of smart people they sure do make some shitty decisions.

You see, before they made the ill-advised choice to give me this job, translators at Microsoft were living in Redmond, Washington but attempting to sound like they were a local sitting in a café in France.

Evidently, no one bought it so the non-English speaking world was turning against us and we were in fear for our very existences (that is just a slight exaggeration…even I can’t ignore that…).

All of this culminated in them packing me up, thrusting me on a plane and farming me out to Ireland to work with our office there to get this all straightened out.

Let me mention here that I am Irish. Half Irish to be accurate but my father refused to acknowledge the other 50% of my DNA as if it somehow insulted him and he wouldn’t speak to it anymore.  His favorite saying was:

“Being Irish was like being a black lab, you could mix any other dog with it but at the end of the day, you still just had a black lab.”

So, until I blog about my Chilean side, I am, for this post, 100% pure, unpolluted black lab Irish.

Oh, and up to this point I had never been out of the country except for the wax museum in Victoria BC and throwing up on the sands of Mazatlan. Not exactly credentials to deal with culturally sensitive issues.

The second I set foot on Irish soil I was home. These are my people – sarcastic, annoyed and mostly drunk. It was like re-entering the womb.

I was swept up by my Irish brethren into the 5-hour work day and the 3:00 pub crawl. We’d share many hours over numerous Guinness.

And, the more Guinness I drank the prettier the designs looked on the foam head. These people are feckin’ artists!

 

Oooooohhhhh, so pretty!

And, the more pretty foam designs I drank, the harder I would try to do an Irish accent, which is melodic and lovely when an Irishman speaks. Coming out of my mouth, however, it sounds just like a drunk vampire.

They, on the other hand, thought everyone from the US sounded either like John F. Kennedy or J.R. Ewing.

Like most Europeans, they eat dinner at midnight. The first night I had dinner out with all my new, snarky Irish friends, we were finishing up our meal at about 1:30AM when everyone ordered coffee. Not any coffee, either, but Turkish coffee. This is the crude oil of coffee drinks. Not wanting to be left out of a great cultural experience, I also ordered Turkish coffee at 1:30AM. Why not?

I’ll tell you why not!! I ended up doing the following for the rest of the night in my hotel room:

  • NOT SLEEPING
  • Watched Irish news for hours on end – in Irish Gaelic
  • Wrote postcards to everyone in my address book – including but not limited to my best friend from 6th grade and several ex-boyfriends.

My last night in my homeland, I was taken to the oldest pub in all of Ireland. I’d question the honesty of that statement if it weren’t for the fact that it was black as coal on the inside and the smell was a combination of what I can only guess is a thousand years of smoke, a hint of Viking sweat and some sort of animal urine.

I assumed I’d be on the dole once they figured out at corporate headquarters that I basically drank my way through our international crisis. So, it was with a splitting headache and a heavy heart that I boarded my flight the next day.

This black lab was sort of sad to go home.

My Big Fat Greek Crisis

My Big Fat Greek Crisis

I don’t want to get all high and mighty, but I will. I predicted the whole Greek economic crisis years ago. That’s right, a liberal arts geek who went to an agricultural college in rural Oregon saw it the moment I stepped on an Olympic Air flight to Crete.

Before I launch into this I will let you know that my darling husband who goes by the name of “Jim” will most likely dispute some or all of my impressions and memories of these events. I, however, dispute his dispute so suck on that!

We were in Athens on our way to Crete to meet up with a bunch of very odd, ragtag people who also thought an REI Adventure Vacation sounded like a really cool thing to do. (More on those details and the idiosyncratic behaviors observed another time.)

We’d been travelling for about 15 hours by the time we lined up (and I use “lined up” in a totally sarcastic way) at the Athens airport to get on the last leg of our trip.

If any of you have been to a Greek airport you know that my entire argument about queuing up and zippering in crowds as being the very foundation of a civilized society simply does not apply here. Without it, it’s anarchy – which is exactly what the Athens airport is.

For being the supposed seat of civilization, its subjects are decidedly uncivilized in a crowd.

There was a literal sea of small, old, babushka-wearing grandmothers, who all bore an uncanny similarity to Larry Bud Melman. As good, order-loving Americans, we allowed these women to cut in front of us in line.

That’s what you do when you are polite and don’t want to be perceived as ugly Americans from Texas (sorry Texans but that’s how we feel about you….if you could just lower your volume a tish….).

These old ladies are an unstoppable force. They seem to work well in small groups, they ignore protocol, don’t take no for an answer and, in head-to-toe black, can go undetected at night like elderly, annoyed ninjas.

When we finally made it on the “plane” (again, sarcastically speaking) we took the first seats we saw. I really don’t think we had assigned seats – pretty sure this is like a metro bus that happens to fly. We sat for a few minutes observing the surrounding din of screaming Greeks, crying children and utter chaos erupt around us.

I SWEAR I heard chickens and saw some feathers come out of a crate a little grandmother was shoving violently in the overhead bin. “Jim” says I was hallucinating but again, I dispute that!

Someone came on with what looked like a bunch of band equipment that would not fit in the overhead. There was a loud argument between the band and the flight attendant until they all seemed to agree it was fine (and well within the Greek aviation safety limits) to just leave it in the aisle.

When it was time for takeoff, we started to buckle up only to find there were no real buckles – or, at least none that actually would secure you in a seat. Pretty sure this aircraft was some remnant from the Greco-Turkish war. I tied my two pieces of fabric around my middle and proceeded to break out in a sweat. This would be fear sweat on top of the temperature and humidity sweat already going on.

I feel I must state here that I seemed to be the only one concerned about any of this. It would appear that this was just another day on an Olympic Air flight for everyone else. This, combined with my lack of sleep, made for a very Twilight Zone vibe. The start of the plane engines sounded like the lawnmower we got off craigslist.

As the wheels lifted from the tarmac, the plane did a sharp bank to the left with literally inches of space between the wing and the asphalt. In fact, I will swear to this day that I not only could see specific pebbles on the runway as I looked out the window, but I saw some sparks come off the wing tip as it dragged along the ground.

Again, Jim disputes this but I say, who had the window seat, dude?

By some miracle of the gods, we ended up in Crete alive.

Listen, people, put the ouzo down and think about it. If you can’t queue up a simple line, you can’t balance a budget. Seat of civilization my ass.

Next time I’m going to Switzerland.