Monday, November 24, 2008

And no one's getting fat except Mama Cass

The Canadian Supreme Court ruled last week that obese people have the right to two seats for the price of one seat on Canadian flights.  The Canadian Transportation Agency had decided earlier that people "functionally disabled by obesity" (insert eye roll here) deserved to sit in two seats for the price of one seat.  Several Canadian airlines had appealed that decision to the Supreme Court which then declined to hear their appeal.  I can't believe I'm siding with the evil airlines on anything, but this is just ridiculous.  I think obese people have the right to two seats, but they need to be paying for that second seat.  Why can't tall people with long legs have the right to two seats for the price of one for more leg room?  Why can't people who need to spread out for work have the right to two tray tables for the price of one?  Why can't people who enjoy a freak free zone have the right to two seats for the price of one for more room from freaks?  (Sign me up for that one.)  Where does it end? 
-- Haiku Hannah

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rode hard and put up wet

Here is another example of how Hollywood is so much more savvy, wise, and articulate than the rest of us out here in flyover country.  (And they are so good with the hair and makeup as well!)

--Haiku Hannah

Friday, August 22, 2008

Chinese food IN CHINA?!

My friend Micah is in Beijing for the Olympics and the posts to his blog now actually have me interested in China (heretofore I was not interested in the least). If you're interested in the non-Olympic side of Beijing, his blog is shutupiknow.blogspot.com.

-- Clear Plastic Bag

Thursday, July 17, 2008

And melt with you

As I’ve mentioned before, I have to have my snacks when I travel. I don’t ever want to be stuck in a situation where I’m hungry and there is nothing to nosh. And I’m a messy eater by nature (I always have a Tide pen handy) and a germaphobe, so I like a relatively clean snack. Enter the Gerber Graduates Yogurt Melts for Toddlers. Yogurt Melts are freeze-dried whipped yogurt snacks. And they are delicious!! They come in strawberry, mixed berries and, my personal favorite, peach. I cannot recommend these enough. They taste great, aren’t messy at all and come in resealable packets perfect for traveling. You can find them in the baby food aisle at your local grocery store. (I will warn you right now though that the baby food aisle is usually full of squalling babies and their sleep-deprived mothers so tread lightly.) Give them a try and let me know what you think in the comments!

-- Haiku Hannah

Thursday, July 10, 2008

It may be years until the day my dreams will match up with my pay

According to the BBC, a 60 year old female beggar named Laxmi Das recently opened a back account (and qualified for a credit card) with 200 pounds of coins she had amassed after 44 years of begging on the streets of Calcutta, India. Her sister said she lived very frugally and saved most of her daily haul of coins. She saved the coins in iron buckets at her house in a shanty town. Police had encouraged her to deposit the coins in the bank to avoid becoming a victim of robbery.

Ms. Das says she saved the coins so they would be available to her when she was too old to beg. I love a woman with a plan!! Take a lesson from Ms. Das ladies and save for your retirement. You can't count on anyone else to take care of you. You have to take care of yourself!

And the next time you are traveling in India or even on the streets of your hometown and encounter a beggar, remember this story. Maybe they aren't just using it to buy alcohol. Maybe they have a pension plan!!

-- Haiku Hannah

Monday, July 7, 2008

Just 13 injured in Pamplona today? Shame.

Just because something is tradition doesn't mean it's a good tradition.

You're not Ernest Hemingway and running with the bulls isn't poetic, romantic, or brave. It's cruel and appalling.

PETA and its use of hypocritical celebrities pretty much grates my last nerve, but I appreciate any fight against the running of the bulls and traditional bullfights.

In the run today:

"Some of the bulls fell and two ended up running on their own. One of those became disoriented, trying several times to turn around and go back toward the starting point. But herders waving sticks eventually guided it to the bull ring where the course ends.

Inside the ring one black bull fell down and stayed there for nearly a minute, as jubilant runners scampered about." AP/Yahoo.

Nice. Well done, jubilant scampering runners. Very brave.

And what happens in the bull ring where the course ends?

It's not pretty.


-- Clear Plastic Bag

Ganja Queen: Bali, Bali bad for tourism?


This weekend I watched the "Ganja Queen" documentary about Schapelle Corby, a 27-year-old Australian woman busted for trying to bring marijuana into Bali (allegedly). In the event you have yet to see the documentary, I won't give anything away, but if convicted she could face the death penalty.

Do documentaries and films depicting people being punished for drug trafficking in particular countries affect whether you would ever visit that country?

My answer is yes. Yes, they do. And Alleve is the strongest drug I even get near.

-- Clear Plastic Bag

Friday, July 4, 2008

Dressed for Success(?) in Jasper


As some of you may remember, Japer, Texas, is a repeat destination for this High Flying Bird. While my previous trip was limited to the Ramada Inn and Andy’s Club, on this past visit, I experienced Jasper in all its summer sartorial splendor as I appeared in the 1st Judicial District Court of Jasper County, Texas.

So, what does a well-dressed lawyer wear in Jasper County in July? If you are a male, it’s seersucker, seersucker or seersucker. When I walked into the courtroom, there were four men dressed in light blue and khaki seersucker suits. Then there were the clients. What were the women attorneys wearing? Well, I was wearing a tan suit with a pink shirt. And leopard print shoes from Wal-Mart. Which brings me to the next question.

When you get to Jasper, the Jewel of the Forest but no shopping mecca, and realize at 7 a.m. that you have left your heels at home and your hearing starts in two hours, what do you do? Wear thongs with your suit? Or recall that there is a 24-hour Wal-Mart just down the road? I chose the latter course of action and decided to give Sam Walton’s shoe department a try. Between the tennis shoes, clogs and sandals, I came upon these little gems for a mere $12.74. Not my size, but ok because I won’t be wearing them for more than a couple of hours. Man-made soles and uppers that will likely begin squeeking with heavy wear, but only have to do for a short time for me. And my pants aren’t dragging the ground and I don’t totally look like I’m not wearing my own shoes. Leopard print is not necessarily what I would have picked for a Jasper courtroom, but most of the shoe is covered by the pant and I am not wearing thongs.

So off I go to court, where the Judge takes my motion under advisement, but does not admonish me for my footwear. In fact, one of the women—who had just obtained a D-I-V-O-R-C-E and was ready for some fun—actually complimented my kicks.

-- The Commish

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Our house was our castle and our keep

One of the lures of traveling to a foreign country is observing how the rest of the world lives compared to how you live. One way to get an insider’s view of housing conditions in foreign countries without leaving the comfort of your own home or spending a dime (except for the money you pay to your cable masters) is to watch House Hunters International on HGTV. This show follows people as they look for a home to buy in foreign countries. It is fascinating. You would not believe what passes for a kitchen or a bathroom in some foreign countries. I thought I had the world’s smallest kitchen until I saw the size of one in an apartment in Paris on a recent episode. Tiny doesn’t begin to describe it. It gave me a whole new perspective on my tiny apartment. It’s only tiny by American standards. I’m living large by Hong Kong and Parisian standards baby!!

-- Haiku Hannah

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What Can Your Bra Do for You?


A 24-year-old American hiker stranded in the Bavarian Alps for nearly three days was rescued last Thursday after using a unique SOS signal. Jessica Bruinsma was located after she attracted the attention of lumberjacks by attaching her sports bra to a cable used to move timber down the mountain. According to Berchtesgaden police officer Lorenz Rasp, “She’s a very smart girl, and she acted very resourcefully,” said Rasp. “She kept her shirt and jacket for warmth, but thought the sports bra could work as a signal.”

Bruinsma, who is training for a marathon, went missing June 16 after losing her way in bad weather while hiking with a friend near the Austrian border. She fell 16.4 feet to a rocky overhang, where she spent the next 70 hours on the narrow ledge, sustained by water that she found by breaking into a supply box on the ledge. She badly bruised a leg and dislocated a shoulder in the fall, and the cliff was too isolated for her to climb free, Rasp said.

So there you have it—even if you don’t have flares or a mirror or a way to build a signal fire when you’re lost, you’ve got a way to point out your location as long as you’re wearing underwear! What other uses could a sports bra be put to in a pinch? Would you have thought to use it as a signal flag and send it down a German mountain?

-- The Commish

Monday, June 23, 2008

24 hours in L.A. or how a city stopped serving me attitude and really started serving me

I just returned from a whirlwind 24 hours in Los Angeles. This is a city I have visited dozens of times for work and for fun, but this trip took the record for quickest turnaround time. As it turned out, this proved to be one of my most enjoyable trips as well. When in L.A., my stomping ground is typically West Hollywood. This trip, we stayed at The Grafton on Sunset. Although its stylish glory has faded somewhat, the hotel is perfectly located and the staff could not have been any nicer.

We stopped by Gordon Ramsay’s new restaurant at The London West Hollywood. In concert with the hotel, the restaurant is absolutely gorgeous. We just sat at the bar for cocktails and a snack from the bar menu. The luxe white and brass and dark wood surroundings would have been enough, but the scallop starter we had now ranks in our top 10 best bites ever. We so completely freaked out about the dish, the bartender brought the chef (not Gordon Ramsay) out so we could discuss in detail. The staff could not have been any friendlier. What’s happening to you L.A.? You’ve stopped serving me attitude, and just started serving me.

After finally making ourselves leave the London, we had dinner at Take Sushi. Located on Sunset near North Vicente, it’s a just a skinny slip of a place. Right around the corner from the Viper Room and across the street from the Whiskey, our neighbors at the sushi bar were eyeliner-rimmed, tattoo-sleeved rockers. Absolute seminal L.A. rocker perfection. (And the sushi was delicious and shockingly inexpensive).

Time for a disco nap (and then the remaining 12 hours).

-- Clear Plastic Bag

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I want candy

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned my love of all things candy to you before. Well, you can add another candy-themed destination to your list of places to go. The Island Fudge Shoppe in Hilton Head, South Carolina is a must visit. All their fudge is to die for, and they offer 16 varieties (it’s a fudgeapalooza!!). I’m particularly partial to the peanut butter fudge. It’s HEAVEN. Heaven, I say! Craving some delicious fudge but nowhere near Hilton Head? Never fear, dear readers. You can order online!! Give it a shot. Your girl Hannah won’t steer you wrong when it comes to the candy!!

-- Haiku Hannah

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Then and Now

Having been fascinated with the idea of Cuban travel after Castro's resignation, this story couldn't help but catch my eye.

Do you remember where you were that fateful Easter morning in 2000 when federal agents stormed the home of Elian Gonzalez's relatives on the orders of Janet Reno? What a brouhaha that caused! But what else was there to do? His cousin Marisleysis famously told a Justice Department community relations officer, “You think we just have cameras in the house? If people try to come in, they could be hurt.” The family was not just going to obey the orders of the United States government—the government of the country that they presumably felt was far superior to that of Cuba. Did they think we had no laws at all?

But now look who’s all grown up—Elian has joined Cuba's Young Communist Union. While the story has gotten some press, there haven’t really been any retrospectives or comparisons of what Elian is or could have been. Funny how things that can get people so riled up at the time have ways of fading. . .

-- The Commish

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Coffee, Tea or Humiliation?

The Transportation Security Administration is installing security scanners that can see through your clothing with millimeter wave whole body imaging in 10 U.S. airports (they forsee installation in 30 airports by the end of 2008). Random passengers (that means you big-boobed blonde) will be shut in a glass booth while a three-dimensional image is made of your body beneath your clothes. And, yes, the scanners will reveal your sexual organs and all sorts of other details about your body, but don't fret because your face is blurred! USA Today quotes James Schear, the TSA security director at Baltimore-Washington International Airport as saying that with the detailed pictures "(y)ou can actually see the sweat on someone's back."

This guy is such a comfort!

Reportedly, you are allowed to choose between the "harmless" millimeter wave scan and the traditional pat down.

While the TSA says, basically, eh, it's no big deal, the ACLU (probably not surprisingly) says we'd all be shocked if we saw what they saw.

The Dallas Morning News has an image from one of these types of scans on their website. Take a look.

So, will you be a scanner or a patter?

-- Clear Plastic Bag

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Six for One

The number of gadgets that I travel with today has increased exponentially since the days I boarded a plane with nothing but my battery-operated Walkman cassette player and a couple of mixed tapes. These days, I need my cell phone, Blackberry, iPod and PlayStation Portable, all with their various chargers so that I don’t run out of juice at a critical moment (particularly when playing a game that will send me back to the beginning to kill the Soviets all over again). But who wants to pack all those adapters and cords? They could take up half of your carry-on!

Enter the chargepod! This little gadget has one AC/DC adapter that plugs into a hub with 6 spokes. You can get the right cord to go from the hub to your phone, iPod, etc. . . Not only have you done away with individual power systems, but you can also plug everything in and charge it all at the same time, so you don’t need multiple outlets, either. And it really doesn’t take any longer to charge them all than it would if you plugged them in by themselves.

The chargepod is not cheap, but with American Airlines now charging $15 for the first checked bag, we need all the extra space we can find in our carry-ons! Skymall sells a bundle that includes the AC/DC adapter, hub and 6 of the most popular cords for $99.95. http://www.skymall.com/shopping/detail.htm?pid=102592733&c= But I recommend that you go straight to callpod’s website and customize your own: http://www.callpod.com/ It’s a little more expensive, but you’ll get the right equipment for each of your electronic gadgets. Both systems also come with a handy pouch for storage and packing.

-- The Commish

D.C. or Austin? Wherever You Go, Come to Play

I want to thank Kay Bailey Hutchison for once again proving that she is the loser of all losers. MSNBC just asked her if she would like to be John McCain’s running mate (there’s been a lot of talk of getting a woman to run with McCain to grab some of the angry Hillary voters) and KBH replied, “John McCain has a long list of great people to choose a Vice-President from; I do not want to be on that list.”

The thing that irritates me is that Kay Bailey got into this game, and we all supported her – as a woman, as a conservative. She’s in the starting line-up because we have repeatedly put her there, but she refuses to really get in there and play. She hasn’t made any impressive moves in the Senate; she just shows up every now and then to support something a Texas man has done. In fact, she spends most of her time in that most important of positions whining about how she doesn’t really want to be a Senator and maybe she’ll just come home and run for Governor (where we already have a conservative in place, thank you very much Kay Bailey). And now, when she could: (1) help the Republicans actually win the presidency in what is going to be one of the most difficult battles of our lifetime; and (2) make history for women by possibly being the first woman Vice-President, she’s just not interested.

That’s great Kay, come back home to Dallas and throw tea parties with your society friends. But will you please, please, please, hurry up and vacate your seat so we can get a woman from Texas up there who gives a you-know-what about what we are trying to do? We have wasted almost 30 years hoping you would do something, and that’s our bad – you’ve made it clear for years now that you’re just up in D.C. socializing and have no interest beyond supporting oil company legislation, adopting kids and shopping for old lady suits to wear with your collection of brooches. At least have the decency now to move over and make room for someone who cares.

And for those women out there who love-love-love Kay Bailey and hate-hate-hate Hillary Clinton, you must, at least, admit this: Hillary came to play.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Not Going Swiss

I've had a representative from the Swiss investment firm UBS hounding me for my money. He was awfully young and cute, and I was seriously thinking about giving him a crack at earning me some money. Well, I have just found out a few things about UBS that I didn't know. Of course, I'm talking about this DOJ investigation into the UBS and Phil Gramm dealings. But in researching that, I also found out about the 2006 $100 million fine the U.S regulators hit UBS with, for transferring dollars to Iran and Cuba against U.S. sanctions and then trying to hide the transactions. I've also seen the resulting lawsuits alleging that UBS's actions have helped fund Hezbollah, Hamas, and other Islamic terrorist organizations.
I've never liked the Swiss much - this neutral stuff is just a facade to do business with everyone, including all the criminal regimes, across the globe and their theft of Jewish billions following the Holocaust is despicable. Still, I don't know how much of the latest allegations are true - I guess we'll see - but the $100 million dollar fine for doing business with Iran is proof to me of UBS's egregious anti-American wrongdoing, and I won't send one nickel of my money to UBS because of it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

AA and Customer Service: An Oxymoron

I recently flew to Atlanta on everyone’s favorite airline, American, and the experience was not to be missed. First, AA cancelled the flight immediately before mine. The gate agent announced that my flight was already oversold, and that everyone from the cancelled flight was automatically on the standby list, so no passengers should need to speak with her. Apparently, some concerned customers actually did feel the need to confirm what was going to happen with their travel plans, and others wanted to check on their seat assignments. After about 10 minutes of a steady, but by no means overwhelming line, the gate agent made a new announcement. This time, in no uncertain terms, she decreed that no passengers were to ask her if they were standby or for a seat change. “If we don’t have time to ‘work the flight’ because you keep asking for assistance, the plane may go out with empty seats, and that will be your problem.” Being confirmed on the flight, I was not terribly concerned with this new directive, but isn’t dealing with customers’ questions the gate agent’s job?

Once we got past the gate agent, the flight attendants were even more prickly. As always, they announced that there was limited carry-on space, so to utilize the seat in front, etc. . . But then they went a step farther—we were instructed that if we got on the plane with a carry-on bag that would not fit in the overhead bin or under the seat, then it would be checked not on our flight, but on the next flight out! Since when has that been the policy?! And the carry-on situation is only going to get worse, with the new baggage charges.

Seems to me that the customer service agents employed by AA are becoming even less worried about the customers and service than ever before. They have always been less than helpful, but never simply declared that they were not going to help at all, so don’t even ask. And what else do they have to do during the boarding process besides deal with carry-on baggage?

The final straw was the pilot’s unnecessary announcement that we were going to arrive in Atlanta 10 minutes early, which we certainly did. But only so that we could sit on the tarmac and wait for a gate. Early arrivals are the greatest lie in the aviation industry today. . .

While en route, though, I sat next to a recent graduate of Texas A&M who wanted to talk. I indulged her for a few minutes, during which I learned that she was working at her first job out of college and she really, really liked it because the people were all really, really nice to her and the window of the office faced downtown and the refrigerator was stocked with cokes. Oh, to be young and Gen Y. . . On the way back from Atlanta, I sat next to a guy who announced to me that he’d had to pee since Alabama, but that’s a story for another time. . .

-- The Commish

Thursday, May 29, 2008

And after she packed, when she looked back, there were no tears in her eyes, and that’s got me worried thinking maybe my baby’s gotten good at goodbye

I have a confession to make. I’m an over-packer. I have been all my life. I remember when I was little and one of my sisters gave me her old, beat-up school backpack to play with, and I used it to pretend I was a (wait for it) backpacker. Even then, I had a hard time getting the backpack to close because I had packed so much stuff for me and my doll. Several years ago I was seriously making efforts to reform and vowed to become one of those people who never checked a bag. I bought a small rolling suitcase (easy for fitting in overhead bins) and managed to carry it on with everything I needed for a weekend trip to Dallas. I was so proud of myself. But that was just before the great airplane liquid restriction of 2006. I can do without a lot of clothes, but I need my liquids people!! It takes a lot of stuff to look this average! So I gave up my quest and went back to checking my bags and consequently, over packing. Lately though, I’ve been embarrassed by the amount of stuff I require for a weekend trip and sick of waiting in fear wondering if my luggage will emerge at the baggage . So I’m taking up the quest once again. I just ordered a ton of mini-storage containers from The Container Store to make it easier to fit all my liquids into the ever so tiny (to a product hag anyway) plastic quart bag. I’m trying to figure out as many powder and non-liquid substitutes for the numerous potions it takes to achieve my supreme average-ness. I, Haiku Hannah, over-packer extraordinaire, vow to pare down, de-liquefy and CARRY ON!! We can’t let the terrorists win!

--Haiku Hannah

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

FreeDUMB Awards

Et tu Southwest? Even our darling Southwest Airlines has gone to the dark side. Trying to book a quick trip to Los Angeles using Rapid Rewards Award and have been indoctrinated into the painful world of their new "Freedom Awards" and having to use TWO (that's 2 "A" coupons and 2 "B" coupons) awards for the trip because of new seat restrictions but, geez Wally, I can convert my 2 Rapid Rewards into 1 Freedom Award and I'm not subjected to the restrictions. Per Southwest, it's "a great new Award travel option for Rapid Rewards Members".

No, it's not. NO IT IS NOT!

I miss the good old days of $3 gas and simple Rapid Reward awards.

- Clear Plastic Sad Bag

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Austin, Texas: No. 1 + A Travel Warning

A "Top 10" list was recently released naming the top Memorial Day destinations. You can read the complete list on MSNBC.com, but for those of you already loading up the iPod with Haiku Hannah's song recommendations and heading to the list's #1 destination, Austin, Texas, be aware of the following:

Austin, Texas is a Stinking Hellhole of Sin (and Putrification)

I live here and those intellectuals and their spirit (and canvas bags) will slow down the line at the grocery store.

- Clear Plastic Bag

The living is easy

Memorial Day is fast approaching, and it has always signaled the start of summer to me. I’m all giddy at the prospect. Even though I’m many, many years out of school and working for the man, it’s just not as painful in the summer. In honor of the rapidly approaching good times, here is a playlist to get us all excited and in the summer mood!!

School’s Out – Alice Cooper (School’s out FOREVER!!)
Summertime – Josh Rouse
Holiday – Madonna (It’s time for the good times, forget about the bad times)
The Sea - Morcheeba
Summer Love / Set the Mood (Prelude) – Justin Timberlake
The Summer Wind – Frank Sinatra
Gimme Some Loving – The Spencer Davis Group (No it’s not about summer, but I always thought they were saying “Gimme summer loving” growing up so it’s in.)
Magic - The Cars
Summer Madness – Kool & the Gang
Beyond the Sea – Bobby Darin
Cruel Summer - Bananarama
Theme from A Summer Place – Percy Faith
Summer in the City – The Lovin’ Spoonful
Summer Breeze – Seals and Croft (makes me feel fine)
Ocean City Girl - Ivy
Surfing U.S.A. – Beach Boys (Tell the teacher we’re surfing)
Summertime – DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
So Nice (Summer Samba) – Bebel Gilberto
Summer Sun – Koop
Hot Fun in the Summertime – Sly & The Family Stone (and everything, it’s cool, ooh yeah)

Have a great Memorial Day!!

-- Haiku Hannah

Friday, May 16, 2008

SPF (Sun Protection Freak)


Pale and freckled, I do my best to avoid the sun but the reality of living in Texas is that the sun is gonna getcha, girl. I never leave the house without sunblock. The one time I did, I panicked and pulled a bag over my head and shortly thereafter a new neighbor came by to introduce himself and I'm standing there with a canvas grocery bag (I'm "green"!) on my head (the purple handles did create a stylish flair, though). I've tried a variety of products, but Neutrogena just came out with my current go-to SPF, their Age Shield Face Sunblock SPF 70. I've been using it for about two weeks and while July and August will be the true test, I have sweated and, so far, it hasn't done the usual burning lava run into the eyes. I read one review where the woman said she quit using it because it left some white streaks and she had to check the mirror after she put it on to make sure she had rubbed all those in. Oh the humanity! Not that! I've had several skin cancers removed (most courtesy of a spectacular chest burn received at a Red Hot Chili Peppers outdoor concert) and a little white SPF white streak should not be a deterrent. You should put any SPF on at least 15-20 minutes before going outside and give it a chance to soak in a bit. Check the mirror then. The Age Shield can give you a bit of a mildly kabuki appearance initially but once it's had a chance to mellow for about 15 minutes, either it goes away or, pehaps, I've ceased to care. All in all highly recommended. If you're on your way to a fabulous beach vacation or just out mowing your yard (c'est moi!), I highly recommend the Neutrogena Age Shield Sunblock.

- Clear Plastic Bag

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hey soft bones I'm just carrying on an old family tradition

The Billy Carter Service Station Museum is now open in Plains, Georgia. The museum is in the renovated service station where Billy loved to entertain the media during his brother's time as President. Jimmy first proposed the idea for the museum and made a donation of $50,000 to kick off the project. While I don't personally care for that attention-seeking-Hamas-loving-international-buttinsky Jimmy, I always thought Billy seemed like a fun guy (who can forget Billy Beer). So the next time I'm in the vicinity of Plains, I'll be sure to check the new museum out. You should too.

-- Haiku Hannah

Monday, May 12, 2008

Just eat it

USA Today had an interesting article recently on the veritable tossed salad of rules created by the Department of Agriculture and enforced by Customs and Border Protection that regulate what foodstuffs you can and cannot bring into the U.S. For example you can bring in fungus routed by pigs in France, but you cannot bring in canned corned beef from Ireland. You can bring in kangaroo jerky from Australia, but not chorizo from Spain. Parmesan? Yes. Brie? No. Cheddar? Yes. Ricotta? No. Read the entire article here, but before doing so enjoy Tina Fey's sandwich or love dilemma at an airport security gate:

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Come fly with me

I had to change planes at Chicago's Midway Airport last Friday night. Was I ever pleasantly surprised. Apparently they have made major renovations, and it might be my favorite airport now.

1. I had to go from concourse A to concourse B which we all know can be dicey when you don't have a ton of time between flights. Well, Midway has more of those moving sidewalk thingies (yes, that is a technical airline term) than any airport I've ever been in. If only they could renovate the idiot masses who can't quite follow the instructions that if you are standing on the moving sidewalk you should stay TO THE EFFING RIGHT so the walkers can pass ON THE EFFING LEFT. Despite the idiots in my way, I made it from one concourse to the other in no time and had great people watching along the way.

2. The ladies rooms were pretty fabulous as airport restrooms go (which admittedly isn't a very high standard of comparison). There were walls and doors in the stalls that went almost all the way to the floor (probably a reaction to Tappin' Larry Craig) and plenty of hooks to hang all your bags on.

3. There are plenty of restaurants and shops to choose from along your moving sidewalk way. I'm always unpleasantly surprised by the sad selection at some major airports.

4. At the gate area there are counters with seating and electrical outlets set up for recharging your electronics and surfing the internet. There was also plenty of regular seating at the gates even with a busy Friday night crowd.

All in all, I'd have to give Midway two big Hannah thumbs up.

-- Haiku Hannah

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Who Needs A Tetanus Shot?

High Flying Birds about to go off on fascinating adventures, that’s who! And you may need a Hepatitis, yellow fever or Japanese encephalitis vaccine, as well!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an astonishing amount of information on the Traveler’s Health section of its website: http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. You can go there and click on your destination and see immediately what medications and vaccinations you may need to get before packing your knapsack and grabbing your flight. If you are going to Italy or most any other European country, the CDC recommends that you make sure all of your routine vaccinations are up to date, such as measles/mumps/rubella, diphtheria/tetanus/pertussis (whooping cough) and polio, and also suggests the Hepatitis B vaccine if you plan to sleep with the local population. (The CDC actually recommends Hepatitis B for anyone not in a long-term relationship. Who knew?) For the more adventurous traveler off to places such as Belize or Brazil, you might want to get the Hepatitis A to go along with the B, regardless of how you plan to spend your evenings, as those countries have intermediate to high levels of endemic Hepatitis B virus transmission. Typhoid and yellow fever vaccines should also be on the list, depending on exactly what adventure you are planning. And before you fly off to assist the cyclone victims in Myanmar, throw in a Japanese encephalitis shot, as well! The site also contains Travel Notices and other safety and security information for your destinations, as well as myriad tips on what over-the-counter health aids you should pack.

Once you have decided that you need some vaccinations, where to go? Why, your state or county health department, that’s where! The CDC also provides a handy link to those: http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentTravelClinics.aspx. My recent experience with the Dallas County Health Department was remarkably quick and easy. The nurses were knowledgeable about the required vaccines and seemed genuinely interested in my upcoming vacation. One even told me she had the best job in the city, because she got to all over the world through the people who came to the clinic!

Even if you are not traveling anywhere exotic, it’s probably a good idea for all High Flying Birds to remember to keep up with routine vaccinations. You don’t want to ruin your trip to New York or Vegas or even Oklahoma City because the guy across the aisle from you has whooping cough...

-- The Commish

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

TripAdvisor's Traveler IQ Challenge

How well do you know the world? Don't get started on this challenge unless you're at peace with wasting time and acknowledging that your geography skills may el sucko.

Take the Traveler IQ Challenge!

-- Clear Plastic Bag

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Beware the PNR

Last fall my six-year-old niece was selling magazine subscriptions for a fundraiser at her school. I had just reupped on my National Geographic Adventure magazine, Vanity Fair wasn’t offered, and another kid had already gotten me for Sports Illustrated. So I decided to try Frommer’s Budget Travel. It’s a really interesting read, with lots of lists, such as the 10 greatest tourist traps and the best airport bars. Of course, most of those bars were in places like Sidney, Australia, and Tokyo.

This month, there was a column featuring confessions of an airline agent. Apparently, they really don’t know when there are flight delays because all of the computer systems run independently of each other and frequently there is no internet access at the gate! And, of course, it always pays to be really, really nice to them if you want a shot at getting your upgrade or a ticket on another flight when yours is cancelled.

More importantly, however, for High Flying Birds, ticket agents are always updating Passenger Name Records, or PNRs. These computer files, which contain basic details on passengers’ trips, are accessible to most agents at check-in counters and departure gates. Agents generally use PNRs to record special requests by passengers, but sometimes they also comment on a person’s behavior. A friend of the agent's discovered this after she had a heated argument with a ticket agent about getting an upgrade on a flight to London. When she reached her gate and inquired again, the agent remarked on her "inappropriate behavior" at check-in, and the friend was stuck with her economy-class seat.

The details in PNRs are also fodder for airline-employee gossip, especially when shocking behavior is involved. Passengers once complained about a woman breast-feeding her Chihuahua on board a flight, and an airport supervisor in the arrival city put the incident in her PNR. Within hours, a gate agent came upon the PNR and shared it with countless other agents across the country. In fact, the agent noted, she and her former colleagues still talk about it to this day!

You can read the whole article here:
http://www.budgettravel.com/bt-dyn/content/article/2008/04/05/AR2008040501642.html

You might also want to check out this on-line exclusive list of the world’s weirdest hotels:
http://www.budgettravel.com/bt-dyn/content/article/2008/02/19/AR2008021901535.html

-- The Commish

Thursday, April 24, 2008

HFY

Big D
Lock up your bouncers
kiss your season goodbye 'cause
Pacman is coming.

Fundage
Oh little dollar
why are you so weak and frail
ass kicked by euro.

April
Pollen on my car
sharp numbing pain in my head
spring is a beyotch.

Vacation
My longed for beach trip
bright shining hope through winter
will never get here.

--Haiku Hannah

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ain't that lonely yet

Two Australian newspapers, the Herald Sun and The Sunday Telegraph, are reporting that author Thomas Kohnstamm has claimed to have made up parts of the travel guides he wrote for Lonely Planet. Kohnstamm has since backtracked from those remarks and claims they were taken out of context. (Maybe he should be running for president.) He says that most travel writers aren’t able to visit all of the places about which they write. Okay, what up with dat? If I’m relying on a travel guide, I want the author to have actually set foot in the location. Am I in the minority here? We’re not talking about writing fiction here people. It’s a TRAVEL GUIDE for crying out loud.
--Haiku Hannah

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Is AmNorDelConU Air Just Around the Corner?

We’ve all heard about the proposed merger between Northwest and Delta, but what exactly does it mean for High Flying Birds? First, travelers can expect fewer deals and higher fares on some routes, because it could trigger a wave of consolidation within the airline industry. Continental Airlines has reportedly had talks with the parent companies of both United and American. And “[a]ny type of reduction in competition is not good for consumers,” according to the CEO of FareCompare.com, a price-finding Web site. Airlines generally try to keep flights as full as possible, and the proposed new carrier would likely continue that trend by decreasing the number of flights to the same locations, according to industry experts. Fuller planes and fewer available seats, in turn, would allow airlines to cut back on the supply of cheapest seats, charging more on average per seat. Check http://www.usnews.com/articles/business/your-money/2008/02/11/where-airline-mergers-would-hurt-travelers-most.html to see the cities on which US News believes the Delta-Northwest, or a potential Continental-United, merger will have the most impact. Looks like High Flying Birds in Minneapolis, Detroit and Memphis are going to be the big losers.

Second, combined with Northwest, Delta will be the #1 airline in the United States; #1 U. S. carrier to Japan; #1 U. S. carrier across Europe; #1 U. S. carrier in Africa; #1 U. S. carrier in the Middle East and India; #2 U. S. carrier in Asia; and the #2 U. S. carrier in Latin America. How long will American stand for that? Might we see a Continental-United-American merger? That can only bode ill for fares and choices in air travel. How about if all 5 of the big boys merge and we just have one national airline?

At the same time, however, the price of jet fuel has risen 55% in the past few months, while fares have only increased by 6%. Industry analysts say the fares must increase in order to offset the cost of fuel, but obviously cannot absorb the entire increase.

Regardless of whether we may or may not be in a recession, and whether airplanes will or will not fly based on the whim of the FAA, travelers so far have not indicated that they are going to decrease their air travel anytime soon. What effect do you think the merger and increased cost of jet fuel will have on your travels?

-- The Commish

Monday, April 14, 2008

HFB Salutes: Martha Gellhorn

Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1908, Martha Gellhorn began her career as a journalist in 1927. In a long career that broke new ground for women, she covered the Spanish Civil War, World War II and the Vietnam War. With her constant focus on harm to civilians, her reporting was considered a morally courageous model. During World War II, she stowed away on a hospital ship in the D-Day fleet and went ashore as a stretcher bearer. In addition to writing numerous novels, her work appeared in Collier’s, Atlantic Monthly and the Guardian. She was also Ernest Hemingway’s third wife, a description she did not particularly care for as she had “no intention of being a footnote in someone else's life”. Interviews with Gellhorn were sometimes granted on the condition that Hemingway's name not be mentioned. Indeed, the “another” in her travelogue, Travels with Myself and Another: A Memoir refers to Hemingway. Despite her two marriages and numerous affairs, Gellhorn remained a staunchly independent high flying bird.

Following her death in 1998, Salon.com published a profile of Gellhorn by Kevin Kerrane, co-editor of an anthology of literary journalism which included works by Gellhorn. Kerrane reflects on his occasion of actually meeting Gellhorn in preparing for the anthology and ultimately sending Gellhorn a copy of the published anthology with a thank you note for her part:

****
But her biographical note in the book included a poison passage: "Gellhorn's war reporting began in Spain. She traveled there with Ernest Hemingway, whom she later married. (He dedicated 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' to her.)" I had mentioned Hemingway because he was featured in the anthology, not only in Lillian Ross' profile but in an early story of his own from the Toronto Star. Still, I had overstepped my acquaintance with Gellhorn -- and worse, I had distorted the crucial facts of a daring journey. She had traveled to Spain alone, with only a knapsack and $50.

"I was very cross," Gellhorn wrote, "that you insisted on putting in Hemingway and the information was false. I did not go to Spain with him; anything but. I made my own way with some difficulty crossing the border of Andorra on foot. I dislike terribly this harping on Hemingway and as far as I know you do not mention the marriages of other authors in your book. So if there is another edition please remove all that."
****
In 2007, the U.S. Postal Service immortalized with a “forever” stamp five American journalists who risked their lives reporting some of the most important events of the 20th Century, among them only one high flying bird: Martha Gellhorn.

Note: Reading Kerrane’s entire article on Gellhorn is highly recommended. And to hear a short interview with Gellhorn about the Spanish Civil War, click here for BBC 4 Radio live stream.

-- Clear Plastic Bag

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Where's my bus stop?

Traveling recently with the original High Flying Bird, I was reminded of the beauty of taking public transportation, to which she introduced me and of which she is the world’s biggest fan. Just stopping off for lunch in one of your favorite cities and don’t want the hassle of renting a car or the high price of a cab? Take the bus! Going to a big football or baseball game and don’t want to miss the National Anthem while looking for a parking spot? Take the bus! Just going out to your favorite bar and don’t want to drive home after tossing back a few? Check the bus schedule! And when you’re riding the bus, trolley or train, who knows who you will meet or what interesting sites you may discover along the way! Whether you are a traveler or a resident, a city’s public transportation system can be a High Flying Bird’s best friend.

We all know about the wonderfully extensive, inexpensive and easy public transportation systems of the big East Coast cities like New York, Boston and Washington, D.C. Chicago, San Francisco and Atlanta also have fairly well-developed systems. And Dallas is trying. But what if you find yourself in Sacramento or Phoenix or Oklahoma City or even Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and want to take a train, bus or trolley? Try checking out one of these sites before you go: http://www.publictransportation.org/default.asp or http://www.apta.com/links/, both of which list various public transit agencies by state. An Airport Flyer stops at all of the big hotels in downtown Austin, for example, as well as the University of Texas and other major landmarks, and then takes riders straight to the airport, with all of the great restaurants easily accessible in between! If Des Moines, or anywhere else in the seven-county region that makes up the Heart of Iowa, is your destination, just call the Heart of Iowa Regional Transit Agency 24 hours in advance and they will provide on demand, door-to-door service for a recommended $3.75 donation!

As Clear Plastic Bag has pointed out, we don’t necessarily subscribe to the green point of view on all fronts, as the hypocrisy within the movement is rampant. But if that’s your thing, then in addition to the convenience, cost-savings and adventures you may find on the route, by all means grab a bus to reduce your carbon footprint, as well!

-- The Commish

Thursday, April 3, 2008

If you ain’t got no money take your broke ass home

I don’t know about you, but I’m strapped for cash in a major way these days. The tax man is knock, knock, knocking on my door, and I’ve overspent on a few mini-trips here and there. But I’m itching for more adventure and, like Timbaland, ain’t got no money. What is a high flying bird to do in this situation? Well one thing you can do is travel (har har) to your local public library and read about the places you would like to visit. I’m currently reading Shutting Out the Sun: How Japan Created Its Own Lost Generation by Michael Zielenziger which is a fascinating study of the “hikikomori”. The hikikormori are a group of more than one million Japanese men who have completely withdrawn from society. They refuse to go to school or work and completely isolate themselves in their bedrooms, usually in their parents’ tiny apartments. It’s a unique look at Japanese culture. I’ve just started the book, but so far it is fascinating. And it feels like a mini-trip to Japan whenever I pick the book up. All without spending a penny! No matter what your financial situation is, you can always travel through reading. Okay this is starting to sound like a public service announcement so I'm shutting up now.
-- Haiku Hannah

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Want a Seat Assignment on AA?

American Airlines announced this morning that it is adding a new, “customer-friendly” aspect to its price structure. A customer-friendly AA? Here at High Flying Bird, we look at all of AA’s actions with well-deserved skepticism and find this one particularly disingenuous.

Passengers on AA will now have a new economy fare from which to choose. To keep up with the Southwests of the industry, AA is offering an option with no seat assignment. Those passengers will board in Group 7, 10 minutes before departure, and will be welcome to take any open seat. Passengers with seat assignments who arrive late may find their seat already taken, in keeping with the current 10-minute rule. According to an American spokesman, “This gives our customers the best of both worlds, while allowing us to compete more fairly with other airlines offering deeply discounted fares.”

High Flying Bird’s take? This is just another way for American to charge passengers for services that used to be included with the price of a ticket, such as meals, snacks and headphones, and now seat assignments. What do other High Flying Birds think? Will you pay what will now be extra for a seat assignment? Will this move by AA ultimately be seen as genius, or a foolish mistake?

-- The Commish

Monday, March 31, 2008

Proud to be a dumb puppy

I was telling High Flying Bird that I have found that no one loves traveling more than the Australians and how, in my experience, they are always eager for the rest of the world to visit their country. For the past 10 years I have had an open invitation from one Australian or another for a free place to stay if I ever find myself down under.

Because they are a traveling sort, it isn’t surprising that Robert Schneider, a 26 year-old electrician from Adelaide, would be on the beach in San Diego. What is surprising and absolutely sickening is that he would be beaten with a skateboard and thrown into a fire pit by a couple of transients. Just last week Schneider was awakened from a medically-induced coma, which he had been in since the February 27 attack, as doctors performed skin grafts and surgeries on his burns and injuries.

Maybe because our country is just a “dumb puppy” (thank you, Johnny Depp), that also means we’ve got lots of unconditional love to give and it isn’t surprising, then, that Americans have gotten together to help raise funds for Schneider’s recovery. If you happen to be in San Diego, a fund-raising Australian barbeque will be held on April 13 from 2 to 6 p.m. at Bondi Bar & Kitchen, 333 Fifth Ave. For the rest of us, checks can be made payable to “Friends of Robert Schneider” and sent to Outdoor Travel Adventures, c/o Robert Schneider Campaign, PO Box 60084, San Diego, CA, 92166.

-- Clear Plastic Bag

Monday, March 24, 2008

If I could be anwywhere at the moment

While I perused Salon.com last week, looking for my daily dose of Left Coast histrionics, I saw a personal ad (with accompanying sassy-date-me-I’m-super-fun photo), that said “if I could be anywhere at the moment: Playing the Roseland Ballroom with my new band”. And, I thought, if could be anywhere at the moment where would I be? An immediate, overwhelming answer did not jump to mind, which I found concerning. There are places I love, such as Paris, but clearly no place so soul-satisfying that it hangs in my sub-conscious, prepared to leap onto my tongue should someone ask if could be anywhere at the moment where would I be.

Perhaps I am just that content where I am at the moment, or, more likely, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. Not that I ever really need an excuse to travel, I feel I have a mission now. But I suppose never finding the answer could be just as rewarding as finding it.

Curious as to where others would want to be, I googled the phrase “If I could be anywhere at the moment” and there were 10,400 responses. The following are the first 15 that appeared (omitting the overtly cheesy such as "having intellectual, physical and emotional banter with someone that I share chemistry with” or “in the kitchen, cooking something hot and sweet for the woman who loves me.")

“If I could be anywhere at the moment…”

"Somewhere off the coast of Tahiti in a small fishing boat."

"I would be on a beach and seeing the ocean for the first time."

"I'd be in Cameroon, or Mali, or Colombia.”

"In Fiji with my new boyfriend discussing what to do next.”

"Ski mountaineering in Alaska, or in a jazz club in New Orleans."

"Simultaneously in the Black Rock Desert and in New York City.”

“Seeing U2 live in concert."

"On a pilgrimage to Dollywood. In a convertible. With a cowboy. An urban cowboy?" ...

"The Uffizzi - can't get enough of Caravaggio.”

"Japan would be fun."

"Colorado, in the mountains."

"Somewhere in the Georgia Mountains."

"Having dinner in Paris or exploring Vietnam."

“In Arles, Bouches-du-Rhone, France. It's the perfect place for an art colony, if only I could convince other artists ...”

“Anywhere but here.”

If you could be anywhere at the moment, where would you be?

-- Clear Plastic Bag

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Winter Spring Summer Fall

The Associated Press is reporting that Three Rivers Press has pulled the plug on a book by two former concierges at Chicago's Four Seasons Hotel because the two authors/concierges had signed confidenitiality agreements with the hotel. Apparently the two were going to reveal all on the inner workings of the luxury hotel and its various celebrity guests. Somebody please find those two a loophole because I think that would be a great read.
--Haiku Hannah

Fun "Local" Activity Alert: San Francisco

A friend has just had a new novel published, Serpent Box (HarperCollins), and will be making an appearance at Booksmith (1644 Haight Street) in San Francisco on April 3rd at 7 p.m. If you’re in San Francisco on that Thursday, go hear author Vincent Carrella read from his new novel, then, feeling quite literary and local hipster, stroll a couple of blocks to San Francisco’s famed Cha-Cha-Cha for dinner.

Planning suggestion: Cha-Cha-Cha doesn’t take reservations and is usually packed, but they do let you put your name on the waiting list and return later, so maybe pop into Cha-Cha-Cha before Booksmith, check out the wait, get your name on the list, and then head to Booksmith.

Learn more about Serpent Box.

Learn more about Cha-Cha-Cha.

-- Clear Plastic Bag

It's the most wonderful time of the year

I’d say at least 75% of my office is out this week on vacation for spring break. I don’t understand the standard vacation group mentality. By that I mean the people who hoard all their vacation days for spring break week and the week between Christmas and New Year’s. I am of a completely different mindset. I don’t want to waste my vacation time when the office is deserted and peaceful and nothing is going on. I want to be out when everyone is here stressing out and creating work. (I know some of you will say that you have no choice if you have the same vacations as your children. Hey, you were the one who chose to have children.) I have been enjoying the quiet all week. I’ve caught up on all my work and have been able to spend a lot of quality time contemplating my NCAA tournament brackets. Because it’s tournament time people, which means it’s the hap-happiest season of all!!!

--Haiku Hannah

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Freedom to Travel Action

The State of Florida is looking to suspend the license of American General Life Insurance for violations of the state's Freedom to Travel Act. The insurance company rejected an application by U.S. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FLA) to increase her life insurance because she had future plans for international travel. Wasserman Schultz did not specify on her application where she intended to travel, but American General called and spoke with her husband who indicated that she might be traveling to Israel.

Application denied.

Nice.

This is the first time the state's insurance commission has sought to revoke a license for a violation of the Freedom to Travel Act.

Look at Florida! They may just be getting something right!

-- Clear Plastic Bag


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Facebook Phenomenon

This morning I opened my weekly American Airlines NetSAAver Fares email and was greeted by a new offer from AA. “Start Sharing Your Travel Adventures! American Airlines is now on Facebook,” the email declared. “Keep your friends updated on your travels around town and around the world!” In and of itself, that seems to this High Flying Bird to be a useful add-on to one’s Facebook page, if one had one, as that is exactly what we try to do here on our blog. It’s the Facebook aspect that I found disconcerting.

Exactly how young and hip is AA trying to be? I clicked on the link from the AA email to the Facebook sign in page and you have four choices for “occupation”: in college/graduate school; at a company; in high school; and other. Then, the page specifically asks for your work email. Is Facebook for young professionals or for students? Either way, I’m afraid it’s not for me, as I did a quick search for others from my high school and found only three people from my class of 1986.

But that’s ok, because I find the whole Facebook and MySpace page phenomenon to be scary. Exactly how much do we want people surfing the internet to be able to find out about us? Eliot Spitzer’s “date” from the Mayflower hotel had to quickly scrub her MySpace page last week after her real name was released by the press. What if you apply for a job and your prospective boss routinely does a search of MySpace and Facebook pages to find out the real story about potential hires?

What do other High Flying Birds think about these social networking sites? And how about LinkedIn, a professional shared-contacts site that I have gotten numerous invitations to join from people my own age? Useful tool or potential trap for the unwary?

-- The Commish

Sunday, March 16, 2008

You're Getting Very Sleepy

Until I’m six feet under
Baby I don’t need a bed
Gonna live while I’m alive
I’ll sleep when I’m dead
- Bon Jovi

If I don’t get some sleep
I’m going to die and/or kill someone
- Clear Plastic Bag

My sister and brother-in-law bought a condo just one street over from Austin’s famed bar-lined Sixth Street. Very hip. Very cool. Very loud. It wasn’t so much the shouting of drunken revelers at midnight, but the 3 a.m. “bottle toss” that put a big, sleepless damper on their real estate acquisition. Their building is separated from Sixth Street by an alley running in the back of the bars lining the street, and at about 3 a.m. every morning, a trash truck runs down that alley. Thousands of empty bottles are tossed into the truck as it stops at each and every bar’s dumpster, every breaking bottle resulting in sleepless nights and splitting headaches. I was determined to solve the problem, and with a little research discovered the Marpac White Noise Machine Sleep Mate Sound Screen 980 Dual Speed Sound Conditioner.

This thing is miraculous. With a sort of whirring, whooshing air sound it drowns out any irritating noises around you. Unlike sound machines that produce rain sounds or maybe ocean sounds, you don’t focus on the sound, rather, it just seamlessly blends into your consciousness and before you know it you’re unconscious, drooling into your pillow. Moreover, unlike earplugs, it also lets you hear any important sounds you would want to hear.

After using it at their condo, I became addicted and now bring one with me when I travel. For rooms on the busy street side, hotels undergoing renovations, new travel companions whose charms do not include their snoring, or for rooms with “honeymooners” just one thin wall away, the Marpac can save a trip from sleepless disaster. The machine is just 3.25 inch high and 5.75 inches in diameter, and while the company says it weighs 1.6 pounds, it feels much lighter than that. Or maybe that’s just me, light on my toes after a restful night sleep. In any event, it tucks conveniently into a suitcase or overnight bag.

Thanks for the fist-pumping, rock ‘n roll anthem, Jon, but I’ll sleep when I turn on my Marpac White Noise Machine Sleep Mate Sound Screen 980 Dual Speed Sound Conditioner.

-- Clear Plastic Bag

Thursday, March 13, 2008

It's like this and like that and like this and uh

I’m all over the place today so please bear with me.

There is one place I will never, ever travel to in my life. It is exactly where Silda Spitzer was standing yesterday and Monday. I would have told him if he wanted a woman standing next to him when reading his prepared statements about cheating on me with a call girl, he could go hire himself one.

The BBC has a report that at least 50 people in southern India have damaged their sight by staring at the sun hoping to see a vision of the Virgin Mary. Uh people, your mother wasn’t kidding when she told you not to stare at the sun or you’d go blind. In fact, I’m sure the Virgin Mary gave that same sage motherly advice to Jesus back in the day.

Hey Southwest, here’s a wild idea. Why don’t you take the $50 you have started charging your passengers for a third checked bag and get your crappy planes inspected, mkay?

-- Haiku Hannah

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Southern St. Paddy's

With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, you might be saying to yourself that it’s time for a visit to Chicago or New York City, but High Flying Bird is here to tell you that the best St. Patrick’s Day parade this side of Dublin is in Savannah, Georgia, of all places! http://savannahsaintpatricksday.com/ Billed as the second largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the United States, Savannah is expecting 400,000 visitors for this year’s 184th annual celebration. But be sure and go this weekend, as the parade will be held on Friday, March 14th, at the direction of the Catholic Diocese of Savannah—the 17th falls on the first day of Holy Week this year.

While you’re in Savannah, don't forget to go by The Lady and Sons restaurant for some wonderful low-country cooking by Paula Deen and her boys. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to see Paula there. . . And High Flying Birds certainly won’t want to miss the world-famous Lady Chablis at the Club One Cabaret. If there’s time, you might also want to take a Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil tour to see the Mercer House, the Bird Girl statue from the Bonaventure Cemetery (which now resides at the Telfair Museum of Art), and other sites made memorable in John Berendt’s novel. For the Girl Scouts out there, Savannah is also the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low.

Savannah is a wonderful Southern town in which all High Flying Birds will feel right at home!

-- The Commish

Lost that Budget Hotel Loving Feeling

My sister and I were in Dallas this weekend to help my parents pack up and move out of the home they’ve lived in for 31 years. While taking a very brief break on Sunday, we read a travel article on Puerto Vallarta in the Dallas Morning News. The writer took a clever approach by comparing “Old Puerto Vallarata” to “New Puerto Vallarta”. He stayed in the old part of town, while his sister and brother-in-law stayed at the new Four Seasons Resort. His article compares and contrasts money spent; his entire trip, including airfare, hotel, and food was still $200 less than just one night at the Four Seasons Resort.

In describing his Hotel Pescador, he says the inexpensive hotel was “quiet and clean” and while my sister and I both agreed that it probably was, we also agreed that certain hotels had forever spoiled our budget travel buoyancy. And no matter how inexpensive or how clean, we are always left a little deflated. For me, it began with the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica, California, and for her it was the Hotel Le Saint James in Montreal.

We still stay at the cheap, clean hotels, but no matter how cheap or how clean, that youthful bargain glee is gone unless the down comforters are sky-high, the linens crisp and white. A turn-down service perfectly timed to one’s evening return and *sigh*.

What hotel has forever spoiled your budget hotel glee?

-- Clear Plastic Bag

Thursday, March 6, 2008

It is time for you to stop all of your sobbing

The travel insurance company Access America commissioned a recent telephone survey that found 63% of families in the U.S. said they aren’t taking a spring break trip this year because of economic issues. Well boo freaking hoo. If that’s the worst economic issue an American family has to face they should be counting their many blessings. Do you have a roof over your head and food to eat? Then shut your whining pie hole and get happy. We never went anywhere on spring break when I was growing up. In fact, we often didn’t even get a spring break because the school board would take the days to make up for too many snow days earlier in the year. So cry me a river American families. You’re getting no sympathy here.

--Haiku Hannah

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Walking in Memphis

Historian David Cohn once wrote, “The Mississippi Delta begins in the lobby of The Peabody Hotel… If you stand near its fountain in the middle of the lobby… ultimately you will see everybody who is anybody in the Delta…” (http://www.peabodymemphis.com/) The fountain in the middle of the lobby is also the playground of the world famous Peabody Ducks, who live in grand style in their rooftop Royal Duck Palace and arrive and depart the hotel lobby via a red carpet to the tune of John Phillip Sousa’s “King Cotton March.” A trip to Memphis isn’t complete without a drink in the lobby bar while watching the ducks perform their march.

On my latest trip, however, in addition to seeing the ducks again, I was determined to find out why so many people rave about Memphis barbecue. I had been told by many that the Rendezvous (http://www.hogsfly.com/), located in a downtown alley across the street from the Peabody, was the place to go. The dry ribs (ribs smoked in a dry rub) there apparently epitomize Memphis barbecue. In addition to the dry ribs, however, closing on Sunday and Monday nights is also a tradition, which were the nights I was there. So on to plan B, Beale Street.

I had been assured that I could find wonderful barbecue on Beale Street, two blocks south of the Peabody, so after my drink in the lobby, I happily headed that direction, looking for “Pig,” which advertises itself as “Pork With an Attitude!” (http://www.pigonbeale.com/) Along the way, I got a beer from one of the many beer windows on Beale, through which the bars sell drinks to passers-by ambling down the closed-off street. I also checked out a number of souvenir shops, where I purchased Elvis postcards for the family at Tater Red’s (http://www.taterreds.com/copyright.html) and a BB King CD for me, chosen specially by the proprietor of Memphis Music(http://www.bealestreet.com/clubsshops/memphismusic.htm).

At Pig, I ordered the pork dinner, because Memphis, like the rest of the southeastern United States, is famous for its pork, as opposed to Texas’s brisket, barbecue. The dinner came with beans, coleslaw and a piece of white bread. The coleslaw was excellent—very light dressing with more of a horseradish base than straight mayonnaise. The beans and pork were a disappointment, however. The beans tasted like they had a vegetable soup base, and had no fire to them. The barbecue sauce was skimpy and the pork was. . .well, pork. After dinner, I saw a beer patio, just a shack, really, that advertised “Big Ass Beer.” So I stopped for one of those and chatted with the bartender about the redevelopment of the Pyramid sports complex, the Mississippi undertow and the West Memphis 3. Then one last Bud Light at BB King’s Blues Club (http://memphis.bbkingclubs.com/) and it was time to head back to the Peabody.

The next night it was raining heavily and the temperatures were plummeting, but that didn’t stop me from heading back to Beale Street to the Blues City Café (http://www.bluescitycafe.com/). I ate in the bar, which was very cozy on a cold and wet night. This time, I had the ribs, as Blues City is known for the best wet ribs (ribs are smoked in sauce) on Beale. The pork was as tender as advertised; it just fell off the bone, but again, the barbecure sauce was skimpy and it was pork, and I now know I’m not an aficionado of pork barbecue. The coleslaw was passable—not nearly as good as Pig’s—but the beans were truly fantastic, full of smoky, maple flavor. In addition, instead of a slice of white bread, I got a thick slab of Texas toast. According to the menu, however, “You ain’t been to the Blues City Café unless you’ve had fried pie alamode!” I was only to happy to oblige. It came in its own cast iron skillet, with the butter in the bottom still sizzling. The crust was light and doughy, almost like a beignet. Outstanding!

On my next trip to Memphis, I’m going to have those dry ribs at the Rendezvous just so I can say I’ve done it, and I’ll focus on the music a little bit more. In addition to my drink in the lobby of the Peabody with the ducks, however, I’ve also added the fried pie at Blues City Café to my list of things to definitely not miss!
-- The Commish

Monday, March 3, 2008

Tripping in the City of Lights

On the first day of my recent trip to Paris, I tripped, fell, and sprained my ankle. But I had on a scarf and beret, so I looked fantastique while doing so. Thanks to the “pharamacie” by my hotel and ibuprofen, athletic tape (you know when they tape a football player’s ankle on the sideline and then send him back out to play and you think “seriously?”, I’m here to testify that it really works), and the pain-relieving qualities of red wine, I was seriously side-lined for only a day, I just moved slowly and took frequent rest stops for the rest of my trip…err…vacation.

But, while hesitantly and painfully climbing and descending narrow stairs to bathrooms in cafes, shuffling over cobblestones through narrow streets, and heaving myself up a large step to the shower in my hotel room, I began to ponder how a truly physically disabled person could get around in Paris.

Others have pondered this as well, as there a variety of resources for “handicap travel” in Paris. The following will hopefully be a start for anyone who might need a little assistance maneuvering the City of Lights.

Access in Paris. This website is based on content from previously published “Access in Paris” guidebooks, the most recent being 1993. A new guidebook is now being written and is expected for an early 2008 publication. Per the website, the authors are working with the Association des Paralysés de France (www.apf.asso.fr) and with a group called Mobile en Ville (www.mobile-en-ville.asso.fr) who, among other things, have mapped the pavements in the whole of Paris for their surface and the height of any ramped curbs. Visit http://www.accessinparis.org/.

Global Access News. This website has a wealth of information on travel around he world, but, if interested in Paris in particular, click on their “Travel Archives” which will lead you to articles outlining wheelchair accessibility of Paris attractions, hotels, etc. Visit http://www.globalaccessnews.com/.

David Lebovitz’s “Accessible Travel in Paris”. As I understand it, Lebovitz is an ex-pat living in Paris. His website is devoted to things primarily food-related in Paris, and, in that regard, he has some particular tips such as when making reservations let the restaurant know in advance that you have special needs. He also recommends for foodies, Place de la Madeleine which is flat and where the sidewalks are wide. Per Lebovitz, here “you'll find fine foods shops clustered around the place like Fauchon, Hédiard, Ladurée,, Maille, and La Maison du Chocolat easy to explore. Most of the shops have access and the nearby Lavinia wine store has an elevator and a rest room.” Visit his website for all his recommendations.

-- Clear Plastic Bag

Thursday, February 28, 2008

I ain’t going out like no punk bitch

I’m heading out tomorrow afternoon for a weekend getaway. I will be hitting the road to beautiful Asheville, North Carolina. I always try to make sure I have the proper accessories when I travel - shoes, jewelry, belts and purses. But even if I forget some of those, there is one accessory that I always pack (pardon the pun) when I hit the road alone - my Smith & Wesson .38 special revolver. Nothing makes me feel more secure than having my gun in the car.

Before you get all up in arms (again, pardon the pun), let me assure you that I have the proper handgun carry permit which allows me to legally carry a loaded gun in my car. And believe me, I earned that permit. I spent an entire weekend, and a considerable amount of money, several years ago taking the proper class to obtain my permit. The instructor was a chauvinist redneck named Cletus. On Saturday, I had to endure an entire day of class which consisted of Cletus “lecturing” about pretty much every subject that was pissing him off on that particular day. He had a captive audience and wasn’t about to waste the opportunity to run his mouth. Cletus was quite the drama queen and liked to make ridiculous statements that made me want to laugh out loud several times. I’ve referenced my favorite Cletus-ism before.

On Sunday, our class went to the firing range. We had to present and register our guns at the beginning of the day. Cletus took one look at my gun and said, “This gun is way too big for your hands, little lady.” I had to restrain myself from telling him it wasn’t too big to shove up his fat chauvinist butt since he could have failed me which would have meant no permit. So I bit my tongue and soldiered on and passed the class. After paying even more money (and an ugly fingerprinting incident at my local DMV we’ll discuss at another time) I was the proud owner of my handgun carry permit. So if, heaven forbid, the shit hits the street this weekend on my road trip, I’ll be prepared!!

-- Haiku Hannah

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

We Don’t Usually Need to Treat Diabetes With Oxygen

Last Friday, a woman died of complications from diabetes and heart disease aboard an American Airlines flight from Port Au Prince, Haiti, to JFK in New York. She began feeling ill and very thirsty immediately after eating the in-flight meal. She rapidly deteriorated to the point of needing oxygen, which one might think would have clued the flight attendants in to the fact that it was more serious than most passengers’ reactions to the cardboard airline food.

When the passenger, who was actually a nurse herself, requested oxygen from a flight attendant, she responded (in her medical opinion?!) "OK, but we usually don't need to treat diabetes with oxygen, but let me check anyway and get back to you." A spokeswoman for the union representing American's attendants on the flight also noted that "Flight attendants are trained not to automatically give oxygen to every passenger who requests it but instead use airline criteria to judge when it's needed." Airline criteria?! Meaning the same flight attendants who can't manage to bring you a second beer with dinner are the ones who are going to decide whether you get oxygen, most likely based on the same policy, i.e.: Do I really want to get her that beer, or would I rather flirt with the guy in first class? Do I really want to get him that oxygen, or would I rather finish my Sudoku puzzle?

Serious questions are now being asked about whether the flight's medical equipment was working. A pediatrician on board the plane who stepped in to assist noted that the automatic electronic defibrillator, which planes are mandated to carry, was working, but the woman's heartbeat was too weak to respond. He could not confirm or deny whether the oxygen canisters were working properly, which the woman's family denies. Interestingly, however, the oxygen on a plane is there for use in case of decompression. It can also be used for other emergencies, but presumably under the same "airline criteria" we discussed earlier.

MedAire, Inc. is a company that serves as a resource for flight attendants regarding in-flight medical events. Flight attendants with sick passengers call Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, a level-one trauma center where emergency room physicians and a service able to translate 140 languages are on call to answer questions from any of 2 million airline passengers flying at any given time. Very rarely, however, does the call result in a diversion, which is a decision made not by the doctor but by the pilot, who must consider a number of variables beyond the passenger's health, including weather conditions, remaining fuel and proximity to an airport. High Flying Bird wonders if they also consider their on-time arrival average. . . In the case of the JFK-bound flight, the pilot agreed to divert to Miami, but then continued on without stopping after the woman was pronounced dead.

High Flying Bird’s advice? Don’t fly if you’re not feeling well!

-- The Commish

Monday, February 25, 2008

From Oscars to Fresno - Highs & Lows At the End of February

The Oscars were a blast...though they are a lot more regimented than I thought. The nominated stars actually have scheduled times to appear on the red carpet so that they can have the limelight to themselves. You see a hell of a lot more on TV than you do being there. Stars go to the left. Everybody else goes to the right. We did get to meet Javier Bardem...but just got a handshake.

We were on the second level, which was better than I expect. But, as opposed to TV, you can only see the backs of their heads so you don't know who is a star and who isn't. While there are hundreds of stars, half of them you have no idea who they are. And there are thousands of non-stars. When you come in on the red carpet, they don't rush you...but, they do make you keep moving. We actually saw more red carpet action inside on the monitors than we did outside.

After the Oscars are over, they really try to hold the nobodies back. And, the stars head to the after-parties. We did get close enough to Elton John's party that you could hear him singing. Prince was supposed to be coming to Elton's party. We waited around, but I had to drive back to Fresno. He hadn't gotten there when we left.

The most fun at the Oscars is the excitement and electricity. Jon Stewart was talking with stars during the commercials. Commercial time is when you feel like you really got something by being there that people don't get watching TV.

Same Old Same Old Santa Monica Blvd.


Well LA hasn't changed. Couple of new places. Other than that its the same place. The drinks are more expensive. Same crowds same clothes same people. They've redone the Abbey. It actually looks like an abbey now. It's very nice. It's a hot spot restaurant during the day now. The food is incredible. The bartender is a "bastard in a basket," as he calls himself. Attached is his pic. He's a hoot.

Passport Expiration Dates: Don't Let The Trip Get Spoiled

My passport says it expires March 21, 2015. To me that means as long as I return to the United States of America from my fabulous destination by 11:59 p.m. (local time) on March 21, 2015, it’s all good.

As it turns out, like a big swig of chunky, spoiled milk, it could be very bad.

Some countries require that your passport be valid for up to three or six months after your scheduled departure from their country. For example, if you are headed to Israel on September 1, 2008, be sure your passport is valid until at least March 1, 2009 (if I counted correctly on my fingers). Israel is just one of the countries that require a passport be valid for six months after your scheduled return.

Before you book your next trip to a foreign destination (and I don’t mean Louisiana), check your passport expiration date, then check the specific entry and exit requirements of that country on the U.S. Department of State’s website.


-- Clear Plastic Bag

Friday, February 22, 2008

The "Sit Down, Can't Cry, Oh Lord I'm Gonna Die" Blues

We at HFB are frequently asked - why High Flying Bird?

So in a move that is hopefully fair use, we'll give you a taste of the lyrics that inspired the site name:

There's a high flyin' bird, flying way up in the sky,
And I wonder if she looks down, as she goes on by?
Well, she's flying so freely in the sky.

Lord, look at me here,
I'm rooted like a tree here,
Got those sit-down,
can't cry Oh Lord, gonna die blues

That's how we feel in our cubicles when we have no trip planned. And, before you ask, our favorite version is the one by Ritchie Havens, though Judy Henske's is a pretty close second.

High Flying Bird Endorses Hillary Clinton For President

Okay, we never saw it coming. We couldn't imagine a field where our interests were in line with Hillary Clinton's platform. We thought we were Republicans, for pete's sake. Well, not anymore.

You've read it all, you've seen it all, you don't want to have it all regurgitated for you here, so we'll just mention a few pertinent points.

- Each of these candidates and Congress would spend a whole lot (too too much) of our money. But universal health care, or some such thing, seems a better and cheaper project than continuation of the Iraq war, starting additional wars to feed the defense and oil conglomerates, and/or running around the globe trying to shove democracy down the throats of other countries, Senator McCain, friend.

- We're not wild about the complete revamping of our system espoused by Senator Obama and aren't too anxious to see it undertaken by someone with little-to-no experience. We'd love to be more specific about our Obama concerns, but until Senator Obama actually says something, we're stumped.

- And, no one wants to say it, but we will. We think Obama is a Muslim, and while we hope there is a time very soon when it is appropriate to have a Muslim president of the U.S., that time is not now.

- And everyone is saying it, and we will too. Senator McCain's is in bed, at least figuratively, with lobbyists which represent a stunning array of powerful special interests. Methinks thou doth . . .

- Senator Clinton is adamant about getting the U.S. off its addiction to oil and creating alternative methods for transporting us about our country and the globe. Senator Clinton is a consistent supporter of federal aid to Amtrack. All of that sounds like very good news for a High Flying Bird.

- We believe Senator McCain is so yesterday, so out-of-it, so contemptuous of people of faith, so in-bed with the cronies, that if he is the face of the Republican party, we want no part of it.

- Any way we slice it, Senator Clinton comes up the most moderate, least insane, and best prepared. Go Hillary.

So we voted early today, for Senator Clinton. We hope you'll take another look. It isn't over yet, and heaven help us if the day comes that she is out of this race.

This is Why People Around the Globe Hate Us, But, What Can You Do?

The United States Olympic Committee plans to bring its own food to the Olympic Games in Beijing due to fears about public health and food standards in China.

“I feel it's a pity that they decided to take their own food,” said Kang Yi, the head of the Beijing Olympic Organzing Committee food division.

What's a War Without Some Turks?

One of High Flying Bird's favorite hip and funky countries has just gotten a wee bit less safe for the backpackers and others who head there for great food, fantastic ambiance and a true welcome to all visitors save the Greeks. Unfortunately, Turkish troops have launched a ground incursion into Iraq in pursuit of separatist Kurdish rebels. Hookah smokers in Istanbul should still be fine.

In Case You're Considering a Lebanese Adventure Tour with Hizbullah

Per the Drudge Report: Hizbullah head Hassan Nasrallah on Israel: "The disappearance of Israel is an inevitable fact. It is an historical process in the region which will come to an end in several years."

Terror Threat in Delhi

An anonymous e-mail in Hindi threatened a series of terrorist attacks next week in New Delhi/NOIDA.

Stay away from places where people gather - market places, train stations, etc.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Serbs out of control (again)?

The New York Times is reporting that 100 demonstrators have set fire to the U.S. Embassy as thousands more Serbs protest the independence of Kosovo. Be careful out there if you're on the road . . .

You know it's not too late cause you'll always have a place to go when whoever's in New England's through with you

If you are ever in southern Nicaragua in the city of Diriamba and run into some children wearing caps or t-shirts proclaiming the New England Patriots the 2008 Super Bowl champions, there is a good reason why. Reuters is reporting that the NFL has partnered with World Vision, a humanitarian organization, to distribute the merchandise of the losing team (which is manufactured in advance of the big game) to needy children around the world. I for one think this is an excellent idea and a great use of the merchandise. So if you encounter those children on your trip to Diriamba don't feel the need to point out their shirts and caps have incorrect information on them. Instead, use the opportunity to pause and reflect on the beautiful perfection that was this year's Super Bowl. The underrated, upstart New York Giants charging their way to victory over the undefeated, cheating Patriots was one for the ages. It will be an unexpected bonus to your trip to Nicaragua.

-- Haiku Hannah

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bye-Bye Castro, Hello Cuba!

The top story in the news today is Fidel Castro’s resignation as President of Cuba and commander-in-chief of its armed forces, ending “nearly a half-century of iron-fisted rule that inspired revolutionaries but frustrated 10 U.S. presidents,” according to CNN. In addition to the obvious political impact, Castro’s resignation may also open up a whole new world for travel. The island lies just off the southern tip of Florida, so it will be a short hop from Miami to Havana, where High Flying Birds can immerse themselves in the culture and history of a country that has been forbidden and mysterious for over 40 years. But where to go and what to do, other than the Bay of Pigs and Guantanamo?

San Cristobal de la Habana Villa, the Old City of Havana, definitely looks like it’s not to be missed. The city was founded in 1519 and still retains many of its old Spanish vestiges, such as the port, the Plaza de Armas and Cathedral Square. This High Flying Bird is looking forward to the Isla de la Juventud, as well, which was discovered by Columbus in 1492. Characterized by luxuriant vegetation and hills, it is the land of ceramics and citrus fruits. It is also the site of the Presidio Modelo, where Fidel and his pals were once held captive. The beaches of the island are supposed to be as impressive as the jungles, so there should be lots of opportunity for adventure.

Even non-smokers might be interested in the cigar tours of the famous Habano region, which takes visitors to the native tobacco region, where the residents themselves impart the history and culture of the area, as well as demonstrate the rituals of smoking the finest cigars in Cuba.

Being an island, of course, Cuba is surrounded by 200 natural bays and 600 beaches. Most are protected by coral reefs, with the water temperature hovering between 73 and 86 degrees. As one might expect, it is a diver’s paradise. There are more than 500 varieties of fish, crustaceans, sponges, mollusks and coral species in the 15 government-protected diving zones in the country. Fishing is also available year ‘round in the lakes, rivers and reservoirs of Cuba, where bass are plentiful. And for all those who remember Santiago in Ernest Hemingway’s classic, The Old Man and the Sea, never fear, Cuba’s salt-water fishing remains top-notch.

The U.S. embargo is still in place, but if it's ever lifted, you might want to include Cuba in your next discussion of tropical-beach vacation plans, with a dash of history.

-- The Commish

Monday, February 18, 2008

Snores on a Plane or How the Cusack Method Didn’t Work But Hopefully Bananas Will

I simply cannot sleep on planes. This is not to say I haven’t done the head-bob-back-with-snore-choke maneuver, particularly on return flights from Vegas. But on Transatlantic flights, when the lights dim and everyone snuggles beneath their germy blue blankets, I am wide awake, fretfully praying for a sleep that never comes.

Other than the occasional over-the-counter pain reliever, I try and avoid pills (keeping wine as my primary drug of choice). However, before a trip to London the first week of September 2001, I read an interview with John Cusack and, as I recall, the question of whether he sleeps on planes came up. He said, yes, and that his secret was Excedrin PM (again, this is as I recall, so if I am incorrect, John Cusack, please, by all means, call me and we’ll discuss over a romantic dinner). So, relying on all things Cusack, I dutifully took an Excedrin PM. While I did not fall asleep on the plane, I was incredibly drowsy and bleary-eyed for the business meeting I had two hours after landing, so I had that going for me.

As we all know, that next week of September 2001 forever changed all things travel. Personally, I vowed to stay awake and vigilant on all flights. If you're sleeping, my friend, you’re sleeping with the terrorists!

But that was seven years ago and I need to sleep.

The Cusack Method having failed, I researched “natural” alternatives. I know many swear by melatonin supplements but, as I discovered, there are a small percentage of us who have adverse reactions to melatonin. In my case, it produced tiny men with razor-sharp machetes slashing and hacking at the interior of my stomach. Doing additional research, I came across a wealth of fantastic ideas such as “turn off the overhead light” and “upgrade to business or first class”.

Oh, how I longed for the simplicity of a Cusack (a Cusack that worked).

But, then, I happened upon a Los Angeles Times article with a few truly interesting suggestions (looking past the revolutionary “fasten your seatbelt”). For my upcoming Transatlantic flight, I plan to follow the Times’ tips and do the following:

+ Eat bananas, which the Times articles describes as “practically a sleeping pill in a peel”.

+ Eat a handful of “snooze-inducing” almonds.

+ Eat a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread which “may be one of the best sleep inducers in the sky.”

Granted, I may be popping out of my pants by the time I reach Europe, but hopefully I’ll be asleep and won’t care. Before I doze off, I’ll make sure I’m tastefully covered by my germy blue blanket.

-- Clear Plastic Bag

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Rocking the Sheltering Sky

The night went by slowly; yet to Port, watching the road was hypnotic rather than monotonous. If he had not been journeying into regions he did not know, he would have found it insufferable. The idea that at each successive moment he was deeper into the Sahara than he had been the moment before, that he was leaving behind all familiar things, this constant consideration kept him in a state of pleasurable agitation.

- Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Teacher don't you fill me up with your rules everybody knows that smoking ain't allowed in school

The Associated Press reports that Sheraton Hotels and Resorts are going to ban smoking in more than 300 hotels and resorts in Canada, the Caribbean and the United States.  So much for the land of the free.  What's next?  Are they going to ban drinking?  How about fattening foods?  Knives kill people.  How about we ban those from hotels?  You'll just have to pick up that steak and gnaw on it.  But WAIT!  That could lead to choking, which is also bad for your health.  So let's ban the steak too!  What about the hotel swimming pools?  People have been known to drown.  We'd better ban those as well!  You can't be too careful in a nanny state!  I've never smoked a cigarette in my life, but I would like to have the option to light up in my hotel room if the mood strikes me.  What say you my fellow travelers?  

-- Haiku Hannah

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Large Row-Mate Dilemma

As I boarded the miniature regional jet for my short American flight from Dallas/Fort Worth to Houston Hobby last week, I saw, with a sinking feeling, that the woman in the window seat next to my aisle seat was rather large. And as y’all know, those planes are like sardine cans, with small, cramped seats to begin with.

When I got to my tiny seat, the large woman announced that she had put her large bag under the seat in front of me, so mine would just have to go under the seat in front of her. Even though it’s just a 50 minute flight, 1 hour and 10 minutes gate to gate, and even though I may be 40, I still need my iPod, my PSP, and my Frommer’s Budget Travel and National Geographic Adventure magazines, as well as my constant bottle of water, close at hand (I’m not weird, just gifted). So I explained, very nicely and reasonably, that yes, I did mind if her enormous bag was in front of my seat, as I would need to get in and out of my bag during the flight to get my iPod, PSP, etc... After shooting me an extremely hostile look that was meant to change my mind, and after much huffing and puffing, she was able to extract her oversize bag from under that seat and maneuver it to a position somewhat between the two seats. I then realized what her initial hope had been—that I would just put my bag in the overhead compartment, as there really wasn’t room for any bag in front of her. Now, why she didn’t stow hers overhead is a mystery to me, because she never got a thing out of it. But I wasn’t asking after what transpired next.

Once the baggage issue was resolved, I was finally able to take my seat and get out of the aisle so other passengers could board. I reached for the seat belt and realized that the arm rest wasn’t down. I started to put it down, but the large woman wanted it up, I assume so that she could have half of my seat. I told her, again very nicely and reasonably, that I thought it was a safety rule that the armrests had to be down. Of course, I don’t know if that’s true, but I was trying to be diplomatic. She gave me another glare, but ultimately acquiesced.

For the remainder of the flight, she read her magazine with one arm stretched over the armrest practically in my lap and moved around constantly to show me how uncomfortable she was. I just tried to ignore the whole performance, listening to my tunes and reading about adventures that I wished I was on rather than in the situation that I was, while hanging halfway into the aisle on the other side.

So, High Flying Birds, how do you handle these situations? Should I have put my bag overhead to begin with? Left the armrest up? Made a big deal of her size and gotten the flight attendant involved? Called her names and shamed her into staying on her side? What would you have done?

-- The Commish