Friday, February 7, 2014

Dispatch from the Sky Lounge

After a grueling 36 hours, Life is Beautiful!

Last minute buddy passes, a 4:00 am wake up call for a 5:00 departure, discovering that, since my luggage was at the office, scheduled for a 9:00 am pick up, I couldn’t get it before 6 am without triggering the security alarm.  Oy. 

The only possible solution was to eat breakfast.  I pulled out some blueberry almond muffins and bananas.  Arwen, my driver, and I then attempted conversation--which ranged from rambles into family history, Janis Joplin and transgender surgeries.  Such is the stuff of 4 am socializing.  

6:00 am finally arrived; we collected my luggage and were off, an hour late for departure.  But hey--I had my brand-spanking new Globaly Entry Pass, right?  That should shave some time off.

No need to worry.  On arrival, the ticket gatekeeper advised me to take a later flight to NYC--in the grip of yet another snow/ice event.  I could then fly directly into JFK rather than have to transfer from LaGuardia.  Va bene.  

A change of terminals and the extra hour allowed time for second breakfast.  And then arriving in a frosty NY, hours ahead of the second flight, I had the luxury of plopping into an island of calm in an empty gate, sketching travelers, trying to keep busy, awake, and alert in the several-hour wait for my 5 other traveling companions. 

And then the reunion came, happily in the Sky Lounge, courtesy of our fearless leader Bill.  Our invasion was comprehensive: luggage, djembe, saxophone, guitar, carry-ons and cameras, drawing stares and a “Are you guys a band?” questions. 

We helped ourselves to designer nibbles, admired the views: the NY skyline, the icy waters surrounding Manhattan, and the Emirates double decker airbus, largest in the world, for which wider air strips must be built. 

For our artistic pleasure, some fantastic photography by Bard College students was on display.  Conversation now ranged from  ‘emplotment’ and ‘poetic awe,’ to wondering if those of us flying standby would get on First Class.  Phone chat with Bro Pete, a group photo, and social medializing filled our final hour before take-off, as we texted, emailed, or FB-ed final farewells to our families and friends in the free Wi-Fi zone. 

And then the walk to the gate, checking in to make sure we were indeed ‘pretty much guaranteed’ to get the First Class seating.  YES!!!  The 36-hr gauntlet run paid off.

Jessa and I are now comfortably ensconced under our goose down comforters, Campari in hand, munching Glazed Almonds with cranberries, honey and sea salt--living large after the Great Schlepp. 

Dinner begins with a glazed shrimp and roasted pineapple appetizer.  If only I had worn the fur coat given me, the irony would be complete. 

So it begins.  The dark side of travel, literally and figuratively, giving way to the light.  How very metaphorical for what we hope to experience in Italy.  Moving into a spiritually dark place, and striking some matches.  

Italy arrives in 6 hours;  Bobbio Pellice after a 3-hr. van ride.  I pull on the headphones, punch in the Paul Simon Retrospective, and raise the footrest.  Time to get me some rest. 

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