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Random Travel Notes 7 June 9, 2008

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Up and Away.

This special edition of Random Travel Notes is packed with bonus content and deleted scenes!

Almost Left Behind. This is how I nearly missed my flight to San Francisco: First, because it was raining on the morning I was bound to leave, there were more commuters in the subway system than there normally would be otherwise. Second, because I had to make my way to the airport during the morning rush hour (a first for me), it slipped my mind that all the escalators at my usual subway stop would be ascending, leaving me scrambling for another entrance where I wouldn’t have to drag my luggage down a flight of stairs. This took the better part of fifteen minutes, which seriously impeded my ability to get to the airport the requisite hour before departure. Anyway I got to the airport with exactly that much time to spare…only to realize that my terminal was at the end of the Airtrain route and that my flight was departing from the farthest gate in the terminal. Fortunately, a kind airline staffmember let me jump the line, check in and run for my flight, so all’s well that ended well.

Deleted Scene! Wet Pants. Right before departure, I thought I’d get lucky and have no one seat beside me for the entire length of the trip (as if actually making the flight wasn’t lucky enough). Yet at the last minute the flight attendant allowed a girl from several rows behind to occupy the empty seat to my right. It wasn’t a big deal…until she spilled her glass of water all over me. Ordinarily I wouldn’t want to make a big deal out of it, but she was clearly one of those hoity-toity types that like to put on airs so I made sure to use the incident to put her in her place (I’m mean, I know). So for the next six hours she was well behaved, something worth the discomfort of damp pants, in my opinion.

Clean Apartment. This was the first time I’d arrived on my own at my parent’s apartment in San Francisco, so I promised them I’d clean up before they got there. Even then, I was simply astounded at how clean and orderly the place was compared to the one I stay at in New York. In part, it’s more than just the usual mess one might expect from a bachelor living on its own (though I make no claims to being the most orderly of people): my parents have had the apartment since the building was put up and have kept it well, for which reason it has a certain shine to it that’s missing from the one I rent. In any event, it was a strong reminder that I have much to improve on in the area of keeping things in order, as if my mom hasn’t reminded me enough to this very day.

Bonus Commentary! Empty Apartments Are Haunting. In general, I have no qualms about living on my own. But I’ve come to notice that it can be haunting in its own way. For instance, whenever I shuttle back to New York from Manila, it can be a jarring experience — even if only for a while — coming from a situation where I interface with friends and family on a hourly basis. But the trip to San Francisco was more telling: staying in that apartment all alone felt eerie, in large part because I’m usually there with brother and parents in tow but so happened to be by myself for a couple of days.

Yellow Lights. Being the designated driver of the family while in California, I took the wheel almost exclusively during this vacation season. Barely a couple of days driving around, however, I noticed that I was beating yellow light after yellow light with unusual consistency. Not that I ever did so recklessly (it’s not my fault the light would turn yellow when it did!), but I did find this both unusual and somewhat troubling, being of the “slow down” and not “speed up” school of thought.

Bonus Scene! Adobo Nation. We were off to lunch at a Filipino restaurant in the Bay Area only to find that there was a camera crew from ABS-CBN’s Filipino Channel on hand doing a feature on lechon (suckling pig) for a spot on their upcoming show, Adobo Nation. Because of the occasion, everyone dining at the time were treated to free lechon in exchange for being “interviewed” about their thoughts on the dish. As no one at our table wanted to appear on camera, my dad and I took one for the team and agreed to the interview. So if anyone sees me on TV in San Francisco sharing my preferences regarding lechon this would be why. My dad however, had the best line of the day: asked by the obviously half-prepared reporter about what color he looks for in lechon, he replied “The color of lechon, of course!”

Deleted Scene! Heavy. I suppose it goes without saying that I inadvertently packed on the pounds during this trip. Couldn’t help it! With my parents around, I was always well fed. And no, this has nothing to do with the prior paragraph (or so I would want to believe).

Prescription Required. Because of my unrequited obsession over glasses, I found myself at an optical shop where a pair of frames caught my attention. It wasn’t quite the pair I passed on in New York, but it was of a similar style and the price was reasonable. Yet when I decided to take the plunge and buy it, there was a hiccup. According to the saleslady, they couldn’t just match the lenses of my existing pair; they needed the actual prescription from my doctor. Of course I didn’t have it on me: I typically just walk into the usual optical shop in Manila and have them pull up my file whenever I need a new pair. More, not even the little card I usually carry around which contains the details of my prescription — which accompanied the last pair I had made — would do. State law, I was told. So once again I had to pass on another pair of glasses, but not before my brother observantly pointed out, “State law? What the hell crime can you commit with the wrong pair of glasses?”

Deleted Scene! Spare Cases. Later in the trip, at a different optical shop, I found the pair of lenses that set these events into motion. This time, though, I had a coupon that made it a good deal (inclusive of an eye exam so I could get a prescription). So I took the plunge and had the lenses made. However, I made a mistake with my choice of lenses and had to go back the next day to have them replaced. When I did, I brought the original case it came with, thinking that it would be easier if this transaction were treated as a return (incidentally, I was probably given the wrong case — it was white and probably meant for ladies’ frames — but I actually quite like it). I was right, but the person attending to me just took the frame and told me to keep the case. When I came back to claim the “replacement” pair, the folks at the store bundled it together with another case. So in the end I ended up with two different cases for my pair of glasses; not such a bad deal, considering I have another pair of Oakleys lying around the house that could use a sturdy metal case.

Out of the Loop. For the better part of the month, we had only partial internet access. “Partial” because I managed to find an open wireless network I could piggyback on (with much difficulty) near our place, though this only allowed me to receive emails but not send any via my mail client. Overall, it worked well enough, but since my dad had all his work-related emails forwarded to my email address, it wasn’t long before I noticed that I hardly received any email traffic versus the two or three a day he’d have to attend to. Which made me feel quite insignificant, actually. Just saying, is all.

Hot, Hot, Hot. It was just our luck that on two very hot days in California, the apartment’s airconditioner went on the fritz. Actually, in the ten-odd years we’ve been going there we’ve had bad luck with that air-conditioner in some shape or form. Or rather, we’ve had terrible luck with the blokes we call in to fix it. If memory serves, one had no idea what to do (and charged us all the same for just that information) and another replaced the control mechanism for it yet didn’t leave us with a manual to learn how to work it. This time around, though, we were fairly lucky in that the Joe we called in to fix it was able to do so and didn’t screw us over in the process. Oh, and when I say “Joe” I’m being literal: that was his name, which for some reason I continue to find amusing.

Bonus Scene! Oil Change. The van we use needed was in dire need of an oil change, and naturally I was the one who had to take it in. Since I don’t usually deal with such things back home — there’s always someone around to take care of it — this was something of a big deal for me, more so since I don’t know much about cars other than how to drive them. Imagine my surprise when, at the nearby Jiffy Lube, the mechanic who ended up working on the car was a woman around my age. Suffice it to say that made me feel really pathetic…because I probably am!

Lake Tahoe! Since we were in San Francisco for so long, we decided to take a side trip to Lake Tahoe. The plan was to stay overnight. Due to some miscommunication, we learned when we got there that our hotel reservation got cancelled, which was just as well since the place we’d booked in turned out to be a real dive. As a result, we ended up finding accommodations at a much newer resort, where we were informed that we could get a complimentary night’s stay if we sat through a ninety-minute presentation about their time-share program (yes, it was one of those places). There being nothing to lose, my parents decided to take up the offer…and ended up investing in one time-share. To hear my dad tell it, the deal was a good one, although there is a part of me that can’t help but point out that it was quite a price to pay for a free night’s stay.

Disaster! Crisis! Calamity!. I’ve written before about how it seems that interesting things happen in New York while I’m not around. It would seem that this is a family affliction. While cooling our heels in San Francisco, there was a cyclone in Myanmar, Fires in Florida, an earthquake in China, not to mention a probe that’s made its way to Mars. There’s a joke in here somewhere, and it’s probably at our expense.

Champions League 2008. For the second year in a row, I got an opportunity to catch the Champion’s League final. In fact, I made it a point that we stayed in on the date so my brother and I could watch it. It was certainly much better than last year’s tie between Liverpool and Milan, yet I couldn’t quite enjoy it as much. Happy as I am that United took the silverware, and despite my dislike of Chelsea, seeing John Terry quite literally slip up and cost his team the match was just heartbreaking.

Flying with Family…Or Not. I was all set to write about how it’s been a while since the four of us have been able to fly together on a trip, and how much more convenient it is to do so. But at the last minute, as we were waiting for our flight home to board, I got called up and my ticket upgraded to first class. I offered it to my parents, but they weren’t interested, so I availed of the privilege myself. Truth be told it wasn’t much different from the Business Class seat I would have otherwise taken, but the peace and quiet it did afford was rather precious. For some reason, however, I ended up feeling queasy throughout the flight. I hope that doesn’t mean I’m just not meant to live it up!



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