Archive for May, 2008

Dulles to Munich

Posted in essays, travel on Thursday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

Wow, what a plane. Excuse me, AIRBUS. After an impressive-looking first class area, the rest of the plane had a front and back section, each almost as big as regular planes. There were 2 aisles separating the sets of 2, 4, 2 seating in each row.

I’d been on a plain like this as a kid when my family took a trip to Israel and Egypt. But that was 25 years ago. Jeez… back then I used to think just being 25 was old, or old enough. Now somehow I’m old enough to remember something I did 25 years ago.

I’ll tell you what, Lufthansa has nice service. Each seat had a fresh pillow and blanket it in plastic waiting for our heavy heads and weary bones. The plane started moving very soon after we all boarded. None of this shit we usually get on AirTran or Southwest where you sit there for a half hour in the stuffy air while the captain tells you that we’re waiting for other planes to take off so we can first start taxiing down the runway.

No, these Lufthansa peeps are all business. Once we took off, the little TV screens showed maps with a little airplane icon tracking our progress. It would zoom in on the DC area and then zoom out to bigger pictures showing the ocean we’d cross and marking our final destination of Munich.

Quickly, the efficient staff was serving drinks and some strange cheese-stick crackers. They didn’t have Jack Daniels, but I can’t complain: the drinks were apparently free. I opted for some Warsteiner premium verum: German beer. Pretty good.

It’s something like 10pm and they’re serving a hot dinner meal after coming around to give us hot/moist towels. Dinner came in little foil containers with either a veggie/pasta dish or chicken, green beans, and mashed sweet potatoes. I got the chicken. They came with a roll, a surprisingly nice salad and some tiramisu cake that was really good.

After dinner, the beer and Zanex team was starting to win the battle against the cramped seats and nearby crying children. It was time for Radiohead’s Kid A album to take me off to sleep among the clouds. I faded in and out, changing pillow positions and shifting in my seat and apparently sleeping for 2-3 hours. I’m really not sure.

Soon the house lights were back on, people were stirring and bright sunlight came through the few windows whose shades had been opened.

My eyes hurt, barely encouraged by the sight of the coffee and breakfast carts coming around. Didn’t we just eat dinner? It’s 3am, but with the time change it’s 9am. I’m tired.

As we approached Munich, we quickly realized we’d be landing at about the time our connecting flight to Athens would be boarding. Looks like we’d have to do an O.J. Simpson through the airport to make it to our gate on time. (Keep in mind, in this context, to “do an O.J. Simpson” means running and jumping over luggage if necessary to hustle through an airport like the old Hertz commercials, not stabbing and killing our ex-wife and her friend and dropping our bloody glove near our house and not going to jail and then coining a new euphemism: “Looking for the real killer,” which actually means “Playing golf and making smarmy comments at money-making appearances.”)

I’d heard how nice and modern the Munich airport was, and it was, but we didn’t have time to linger. We negotiated all the escalators and corridors following the signs for Gate G20. We got there just in time to join the end of the line of people boarding the flight for Athens.

Thank god. I don’t care how nice the Munich airport is, the next flight to Athens wasn’t till 7pm and the thought of sitting around for 8 hours in another airport was unappealing to say the least.

A smaller, regular-sized plane this time. Just a 2-hour flight. But once again, Lufthansa hooked it up: lunch was a hot rice dish and 2 more free Warsteiners.


Waiting at Dulles

Posted in essays, travel on Thursday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

We only got to the airport 6 hours early.

Better early than late, of course, but I don’t think I’ve ever checked in and gone through security a full 6 hours early. Talk about having time to kill… I needed an arms dealer and a warehouse full of explosives to carry out the bloodbath necessary for this wait.

We got to our gate, 45B, and it was crowded with people waiting to board a flight ahead of ours. I pictured them safe on the ground at their final destinations, knee-deep in their vacations, before we would even board our plane.


We sat at the next gate over, adjacent to ours. There were plenty of seats. We figured we could just shift over to our actual gate sometime in the next few hours once it cleared out.
Within about 12 seconds we were ready to take a walk. Find a snack, some drinks… maybe some window shopping.

My 75-year-old Greek father-in-law stayed sitting at the gate. We surrounded him with our carryon luggage and set off to explore what Dulles Airport had to offer.

The Tequilery, a small bar that served Mexican food. Dan’s Tap Room, a restaurant/bar that looked to have basic American fare: burgers, grilled chicken salads. A kiosk selling countless items printed with USA and America! Even shot glasses, nail files, towels, and toilet paper with the White House logo printed on it. How ridiculous. Who would want that shit? Even if you gave it as a gift, would anyone really think you stayed at the White House? Seems to me that commercialized crap like that does as much to soil the alleged sanctity of the office of the presidency as anything Bill and Monica might have done after a late-night pizza.

On we walked, passed a magazine shop with a Starbucks in it, a small Borders bookstore, and your other basic airport/pseudo-mall offerings.

Outside, the rain continues to pour down for the fourth straight day. It seemed like it had been raining for weeks. Between the rain and the waiting to board a 9-hour flight, I felt like a giraffe or zebra waiting for Noah to give me the “All aboard!” onto his ark.

Got a slice of pizza, sat around, took a walk, sat around, went for drinks, sat around, took another walk, stood around cuz we just couldn’t sit anymore.

At some point, I went for drinks with my brother-in-law. He ordered a rum and coke, and I got a Jack Daniels and ginger ale. For the extra $2 we both upgraded to “doubles.” So our $8.50 drinks had almost as much liquor in them as what a regular single drink should. Pretty soon the father-in-law shows up. If there were 2 things he could sniff out in an international airport, it’s a bar and his sons.

He’s an Ouzo man of course, but most American bars, especially these small airport/mall joints, usually don’t have Ouzo. So in restaurants he usually gets beer. Budweiser is his brand. Not Bud Light, or Select Ice Draft or anything, just “Gimme one Budweiser,” he says.

But now, here, in the midst of a 6-hour wait… after driving 2 hours in the rain from our house to his son’s hotel… after sitting in the hotel restaurant/bar for a 2-hour lunch that featured 2 Budweisers for him and the worst service known to man… after all this, and an 9-hour flight ahead of us, Budweiser wasn’t gonna cut it.

“You have cognac?” he barks quickly in his accented English.
The waitress says, “Sure, Courvoisier or Hennesy?”
“It no matter, just make-a for double!”

We drank our drinks and watched Spain and France play World Cup soccer, tied 1-1, and tried to pretend to recognize tripping fouls and show mild excitement if/when the ball neared the same zip code as the goal.

The waitress came back around and asked dad if he wanted another drink. He declined and she gave the clichéd flirty-waitress smile and said, “Oh well, I tried…” After she walked away, dad commented that she had a beautiful smile. He’s 75 years old. Tired. Impatient. But he still knew when a cute waitress had a nice smile.

On our way out, he even went so far as to stop her and tell her how beautiful her eyes and smile were. When guys half his age or younger pull that shit it’s usually somewhere between sad and desperate, and not far from creepy. But when he did it, it was as cute as her smile.

Back at Gate 45B, we were still serving out our sentence as other inmates began to fill in the seats around us. Outside, the rain pounded the runways and the sky darkened.
Soon we’d be taking off and joining the rain, clouds, and darkness up in the sky. Obeying that little light that tells us when we could unhook our seatbelts… about 362 passengers and a large crew would crowd onto this big plane… this giant tube with engines and wings… and trust the physics and technology that most of us don’t understand and hope we can safely sail 50,000 feet above the ocean and cross the whole damn thing.

Next stop: Munich.

Stick a Fork in Hillary Clinton

Posted in politics on Friday, 2008 by Todd.Levinson.Frank

Tuesday night, with her small lead in Indiana dwindling to what would ultimately be a measly 2-pt win, er, tie really….. Hillary Clinton took the stage to ecstatically claim victory, despite getting blown out in North Carolina. That, combined with the close Indy results, signal the beginning of the end of her quest to return to what she seems to think is her house…. That White one on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Within the first several minutes of her speech, she was telling us the name of her website and asking for money.

She’s vowed to keep going….. and she will, trying to hang around till Barack Obama self-destructs and/or she can get Florida and Michigan resolved (in her favor). Neither will happen. Maybe they cut a deal with FL/MI but she wouldn’t get all those delegates.

She’s done. But she knows she’ll win 2 of the next 3 primaries so she’ll hang around like that last guest who just won’t leave when the party is over

I wonder if the Clintons are just sorta seeing what happens this week with numbers, spin, Superdelegates….. then, after winning West Virginia on Tuesday, she can go out on top and say she was willing to go all the way and keep fighting (for us!) but the math/votes/supers…. she’ll say she’s doing the right thing for the party so she can be VEEP, or, more likely come back in 2012 if McLame wins or whatever.

Hopefully she quits sooner than later. One more week instead of one more month. PLEASE Hillary.

She has to realize that it’s foolish to wait till the May 31 meeting about FL/MI (why not move that up a few weeks!) It’ll just make her look like she’s trying shenanigans, and even if they somehow resolve/seat those delegates, they’ll give some to Obama so it still won’t matter. If she quits this week before WV, it’ll look like it’s not her choice. By quitting next week, she can get one more win AND pretend to be going out on her own terms.

Apparently, everyone knows this and admits it but the Clintons:

    • “Stick a Fork in Her – She’s Done,” recommended the New York Post, calling Indiana a “shroud” for Clinton.
    • “This nomination fight is over,” said Clintonite-turned-ABC Newsman George Stephanopoulos.
    • “We now know who the Democratic nominee is going to be,” submitted NBC’s Tim Russert.
    • “For the Clintons, this is the night the music died,” proposed MSNBC’s Pat Buchanan.
    • The Washington Post had Clinton’s own aides conceding “it would be difficult.”
    • Word spread overseas. “It would take a miracle for her to win,” concluded the Times of London.

And as Superdelegates continue to trickle over to Obama (following a few former Clinton supporters who switched to Obama last week), now, even more prominent Democratic Clinton supporters are saying she should get out soon.

But word is she’ll finish out all of the primaries and this is more likely to officially end in early June.

Meanwhile, the day after his solid showing in North Carolina and Indiana all but locked up the nomination, Obama had no events scheduled. I like that…….. “my work is done here, time to catch up on some sleep. Lots more work ahead.”

And now McCain is pushing that “Hamas has endorsed Obama.” The general election is on.

When Obama wins states like NC, they say “oh, well duh, high black population. He was supposed to win,” as if it shouldn’t count. When Clinton wins in PA, OH, or Indiana (barely), where it’s her white non-college demographic, they hail it as absolute proof that only she can beat the mighty John McCain. That only she can get votes from blue-collar white voters.

But let’s give some uneducated/blue-collar/white people some credit. Maybe they are smart enough to realize that McSame will keep screwin the poor/middleclass while the rich get richer and a Democrat might return us to better economic times, peace, and prosperity. Maybe, just maybe…. rural types will finally realize that the ol’ Republican politricks of “They’re gonna take away your guns and ban your bibles! There will be fags running in the streets tryin to molest your kids!” is just a load of crap.

Sure, Obama didn’t win the majority of the blue-collar vote when matched up against a Democrat like himself… but when matched up against McBush 3.0, Obama will be able to win on issues like jobs and the economy. That will win back most of the blue-collar vote. It’s ridiculous to suggest that how Obama faired in the primary vs. a Democrat dictates with any certainty how he’d fair vs. a Republican in November.

Unfortunately, as much as I tried to give them credit two paragraphs ago, there are still a lot of rural folk who will fall for the “those damn liberals’ll raise your taxes, take your guns, ban your bibles, and let the fags run wild!” spin
And in that voting booth they’ll assume that all politicians will screw the working guy no matter what, so let’s just fall prey to the fear tactics and vote for McSame to keep us McSafe because we think Barack Hussein (did you know his middle name was HUSSEIN!!) Obama might be a Muslim or something….

“We just don’t know anything about him” I hear people say. Well, he has all his policy proposals on his website. He’s written two books: one about his life and upbringing, and one that lays out his vision for America. So you can know plenty about him if you’re really interested.

I think it’s funny how people often criticize Obama’s speeches for being short on substance…. as if every single appearance must be him reading policy papers and reciting all of his issue positions. Yea, I know the knock on Obama is that he’s all style and “just lofty speeches,” but there are times when the duty of a leader is to provide some inspiration… some clarity and perspective on important issues, even if they are general ones such as “the direction of our country” and “the way Washington works.”

Gore and Kerry were criticized for being nerdy and/or boring, lacking style and inspiration…. now Obama’s being criticized for being not nerdy/boring enough.

But what do I know; I’m just another Barack Obama supporter. Another fool who has been duped by lofty rhetoric. Ah yes, of course. Anyone who supports/likes/votes for Obama must be just caught up in blind faith. It couldn’t be that we’ve been reading and watching and listening and come to an informed decision. We’re just so caught up in the lofty speeches that now we’re all drones aimlessly following this false prophet of hope. okay.