Now, don’t get excited. This is not one of those real horror tales — like the people just recently trapped in a JetBlue plane, parked on the tarmac for seven hours. (It’s kidnapping and torture, as far as I’m concerned. There’s no excuse. Although aside from physically assaulting a crew member or one of the pilots, the public can’t do a damn thing about it.)
No, this was fairly normal journey, made stressful by Mr. wOw’s anxiety. You have no reason to be interested, but … what the hell.
I attended an event in Los Angeles. I had vacillated back and forth for several weeks over this trip, which was not essential, but personally important, and might even be useful and amusing professionally, I thought. However, it had been eight years since I’d flown alone. Earlier this year I had accompanied my boss someplace, and that had its own tension — though much good came of it. But on a plane, and dealing with airport security, etc. all by myself? Eight years. Ugh.
Of course, I waited so long to make my reservation I couldn’t manage a really cheap flight. My event was on a Sunday and I decided to fly out Friday, and give myself two nights in L.A. to decompress and calm my nerves about the gathering — what would I wear? Was I going to sweat through my clothes? Would my nervousness cause me to break out? Would my fresh new, short haircut still look okay? Would I have a sudden heart attack and die alone in my hotel room? If there’s a way to make a potentially good thing a disaster in my head, Mr. wOw knows how.
So, since I wasn’t getting much of a break on my airfare, I decided to go whole hog and stay at the deluxe little hotel I’d frequented so often back in the good old days of the 1980’s, 90’s and early 2000’s. It is tucked away near West Hollywood, two blocks down from Sunset Strip, dotted with famous spots such as The Whiskey a Go-Go, The Viper Club, The Chateau Marmont, Hamburger Hamlet, Book Soup, and Gil Turner’s Wine and Spirit Store, where many a star can be spotted picking up some wine or spirits. (My girl Marilyn had quite an account there!)
I made that hotel reservation — “We’re so pleased you’re returning” the man at the desk said smoothly, as if I’d been there only last month.
Then came the packing. Now, seriously. Two nights in L.A. (I had booked a red-eye to return to work Monday morning.) How much does one Mr. wOw need? Well, I needed my meds. I needed my mineral makeup. I needed my dress shoes and a pair of sneakers. I needed two jackets, because I couldn’t decide which was more appropriate or would feel better in the L.A. heat. I was traveling in my grubby but very comfortable gym pants, a loose tee and a hoodie, but I still needed several other tee-shirts to sleep in, a pair of shorts to hang around the room. Two pairs of jeans. I also couldn’t decide on a “good” shirt to wear, so I brought four. I decided not to travel with toothpaste, mouthwash, or shaving cream, fearing they might be mistaken for bombs. I would buy those in L.A., at the big Rite Aid. I managed to stuff everything into one carry-on bag. Although it was a rather big carry-on. I could not sling it comfortably over my shoulder or on my back.
No sleep Friday night, natch. B. has already made the reservations for me online. I have my confirmation, flight numbers, etc, but no ticket — you know how it goes these days. Now you have to approach those panels, sweep your ID (in my case, my passport) through some slot and then go through one hundred pushings and pressings to get your boarding pass. I’ve never done this before at an airport. And this particular technology challenges me. It challenges me in the subway. (I miss tokens!) It challenges me at the Port Authority if I am going home late, and don’t have a little paper ticket. Mr. wOw has been cursed and manhandled by those waiting behind him as he pushes the wrong thing endlessly, has to start over, and is clearly a person of limited intelligence — who lets me out on my own?
I was no better at the airport. Quite a bit worse in fact. I began to panic — I’d miss my plane because I’d be stuck here forever, in some Twilight Zone of ticket-gathering (never mind my flight was at 1:00 p.m. and it was only 10:35 a.m.) I must have looked especially pathetic and middle-aged because somebody who worked at Continental, came over and did it for me, before I started crying.
Finally I am through security, putting my shoes on again, and looking for the bookstore. I pick up a shit-load of crappy magazines, also copies of Antonia Fraser’s Mary, Queen of Scots (I leant out my copy years ago and never got it back) … David Carter’s book on the Stonewall riots of 1969 (leant it out, never got it back) … and Madame Bovary, because I’d actually never read it, although I’d always intended to, being such a great fan of Vincent Minnelli’s film of Flaubert’s masterpiece, which starred the ravishing Jennifer Jones.
Then I looked for a bar/restaurant. I had a big Cobb salad and two stiff Bloody Marys. The bartender did his bartender thing (flirting), and I pretended I believed he was really flirting with somebody old enough to be his grandfather. He was properly rewarded for his strenuous effort.
On the plane finally. Did not get the aisle seat I requested. Stuck in the middle between a man and a woman who were … not Victoria Beckham if you get my meaning. The flight was jam-packed and by the time I reached my unpleasant seat there was no room above for my bag. So it kinda went under the seat. We took off, I was terrified as usual, relaxed in time, and then realized, happily, I could get free movies! I popped my iPod buds into the seat handle and watched “The Bourne Supremacy” (we adore Matt Damon, even if we hate the jittery hand-held camera work of this “Bourne” film.) And then I watched “Captain America,” which I really loved until the end, which was so disappointing I actually yelped “WTF?!” startling my beefy companions on either side of me. There was also time to see part of “Bad Teacher.” Terrible beyond redemption. But I was totally into the ineptitude and crudity of it — not to mention the shocking ruin of Cameron Diaz’s face — and hated to turn it off as we made our descent to foggy, steamy L.A.
I was happy to be back in my cozy hideaway with the surprise sunken living room (an excellent incentive to stay sober!), two big flat screen TVs, a fireplace and a full kitchenette. I didn’t touch the mini-bar. Please — a bag of peanuts is, like ten dollars!
Spent most of my time sprawled on the huge bed with all the pillows and comforters, reading of La Bovary’s dissatisfaction with her life and her men. (I called my man, B. and missed him terribly. Although I did not miss the chaos of our small, cat-inhabited house.) Walked up and down Sunset. I could live there. But no other place in L.A. I can’t drive. (And surely you know Mr. W. is too nervous and crazy to get behind the wheel of a car.)
Had drinks with my friend Charles, who is not taking that good job in Honolulu, then dinner the next night with Charles again and my friend Bill, who was out in L.A. for the same reason I was. We went to the seductive dimly-lit Aroma on Sunset. The food was good. But it was better that we all looked 30 under that wattage. We admired each others false youth — “you look fabulous!” I avoided buying any more high-priced photo books on Marilyn at Book Soup, though I was sorely tempted. (The one I really wanted was $200. Even I have to draw a line in the MM sand.)
On Sunday I dressed with the air conditioning full blast, freezing, to keep me from sweating even as I changed clothes three times. Bill and I shared a cab to the event, arrived much too early, I bitched about that, I bitched pointlessly about the blinding sun and having forgotten to apply sunscreen — would the sun set just because I wanted it to? — I bitched that the whole thing was going to be a disaster. But in the end, it all turned out quite well, as things generally do for Mr. W.
Sunday night I was back at LAX, once again panicked by “the ticket panel.” Once again helped by a kind stranger — this one didn’t even work there. Just took pity on me. LAX is a wreck, undergoing renovation. Only one bar/restaurant. I ordered two double Bloody Marys, kept my shades on and my hoodie up. Nobody even pretended to flirt. Another packed flight. I got the aisle seat but it was at the very back of the plane. Hate the back of the plane! And this time, no free movies — the flight was too short for such amenities. I iPod-ed and didn’t sleep because I never can on a plane. I played a lot of 1960’s girl group songs — tough stuff to keep me alert. Was back in my office at 9:10 a.m. I looked like crap, felt worse, but managed to work reasonably well.
At five I got back to Hoboken, fell into my messy house, and was never so glad to see B. Our oldest cat, Doll, was finally roused, B. said, from her depressed state — B. insists she was pining for me — and toddled over to purr extravagantly right away.
I’m thinking a train next time. But only because I want to jump into the aisle with my ukulele and belt out “Running Wild.” You movie fans know what I mean.