I’m no great fan of airlines. Yet I’m amazed by them and I marvel at the complex logistics involved in moving millions of passengers a year without inciting riots. Occasionally I fantasize about them (namely, flying business or first in an a-380). Mostly I suffer them like those without private jets do: as a necessary evil. My principal gripes are with their perverse economics as well as their usually indifferent, frequently rude, and on occasion outright falsified approach to shuttling said multi-million homo galactics from gateway to ground each day.

Grace was on our side this morning, however: everyone has been lovely so far. It helped that the only staff we encountered post-taxista were the security guard (gladdeningly indifferent and efficient), a thoroughly delightful woman at the front desk of the admirals’ club, and a pleasant young woman in the newstand who asked if I found everything I was looking for. It helps also that when you fly first class you can board the plane whenever the hell you feel like it; you have your own express entry to the gangplank (what on earth is that long corridor called?) and they greet you as “Mister –.”



I write these dangerous words with a bit of trepidation. Having spoken pleasantly of the morning’s flying experience – up through and including the satisfactory breakfast service on board the plane – I worry a little bit that I overpaid on my good fortune somewhere between home and here and that karma is going to ask for a refund once we land in new york.

In any event.

Dare I say it: the 767 is a lovely plane. Sexy. Like a private lounge for 36 blessed travelers. I don’t know what it looks like in the behind, but up front it’s quite delicious. Almost better than–. (Well. No. No need to get carried away.) There’s almost an excess of space up here in the front. Arvin confirmed as much as we settled in, he shifting around his bag and our water bottles and the full-size pillow and comforter that come with the seat (yes, comforter, no wispy acrylic thing with other people’s hair stuck to it). He leaned over and whispered as he tested the array of buttons that control the seat: “There’s so much room I don’t know what to do.”

I then knelt down to get the hand sanitizer from his bag, which was tucked fully beneath the seat ahead of him. Remembering the near-impossibility of extracting anything from beneath the seat in front of you when in coach, I silently chastised myself for even contemplating the notion that first class accommodations are a profligate use of aerospace.

(And if by any chance you’re in the back of the plane while reading this, rest assured that I don’t approve of this sort of airborne extravagance. One of my persistent pet peeves is the disparity between upper classes of service and the chiropractic crisis otherwise known as Economy, and I firmly believe that there must be an alternative to forcing people to fly cheaply in what is the homo sapien equivalent of a veal cage. As the stewards bring around champagne and orange juice in tiny stemmed plastic glassware set upon trays, I’m reminded that there IS an alternative. It’s called the bus.)



On y Va

The first in a (theoretical?) series of postings from abroad.

8/22/11 – mon
AA #24 sfo – jfk
A mostly easy weekend of preparation in advance of our holiday – the first bona fide vacation in 5 years that involved just the two of us, away from home, in a new land, with absolutely no work. It helped to wrap up work by friday evening. That took until 8pm and then we had pizza and caught up on last season’s Dexter. On Saturday: a walk to cole street for minutiae – travel containers for lotions and potions – and a fresh bottle of my ubiquitous saline nasal spray with xylitol. (The xylitol, I’m told, fosters the growth of beneficial bacteria in the back of the nose.) Lunch ensued at the squat and gobble with our standard fare: salmon fusilli pasta for arvin and a mexican chicken salad for me (never stray!). In good holiday spirits my salad was accompanied by a very summerlike french rose. Perfect for a frigid summer.

Sunday was yoga in the morning for me, which was mostly good – I moved through the poses with focus and agility; and it was interesting – charu, my cosmic earth goddess instructor, indicated that we are transitioning from an era of homo sapiens to an era of homo galactins (an awareness given name by the inter-species communication class she’s just begun taking); and it was also kind of bad – I came out of meditation feeling like a failure: shirley maclaine figured into my assessment somehow – she of following truth, opening up to the mystic, me having accomplished very little in my 47 years as compared to her films and past life confessions. It left me with a sour taste in my brain and my heart, which was filled with openness, sweat and light, struggled to compensate. By nightall I was mostly ready for the trip, having rounded out my various ‘get me the hell out of here’ little tasks, my mood elevated by a list of things all crossed out.

The 4.15am alarm arrived on monday with me dreaming that it was 3.15am and I was already in the shower, noting almost proudly that I’d awakened early and hadn’t had any ‘airplane’ dreams – the kind where you dream you’re dreaming that you’re already awake.

Arvin’s alarm rang and we got out of bed, showered, had a sip of leftover coffee. Dumped the last bits of trash and rotting veggies down the chute.

Ordinarily I don’t mind christening the on-board restroom on airplanes but for some reason I didn’t feel like traveling with a bloated bowel today, so I went into the restroom and forced the issue, with moderate success. Just then my cell phone rang. “Taxi,” arvin called from the living room as I flushed. The taxi had arrived in front of our building as timely as a train in switzerland.

A taxi is not a hired car, however, and one worries that a taxista might not wait too long for you, or that someone will creep out into the darkened morning and abscond with your taxi if you dally gathering your things. For that reason, there’s always a pang of hurry and worry the moment a taxi arrives. A rapid brushing of the teeth is followed by a final glance around the place and an acknowledgment that whatever’s been forgotten is now officially left behind. Then there follows the mandatory check of the zippered compartment of the bag to make sure, again, that the passports haven’t jumped out of their own volition. (Because you know it’s possible. As a homo-galactic, I recognize that paper is made from trees and trees are living creatures and therefore the paper on which our passports are printed, and the sand and chemicals upon which their RFID tracking chips are based, possess vibrations. So it’s quite possible that the passports vibrated their way out of the pocket while I was ‘making a deposit’. Possible. But highly unlikely.)

I rushed out of the bathroom, slipped into my shoes and did the cursory last checks. Arvin stood by the door in his slacks, sports coat and modern pointy shoes: “On y va?”

traveling light

traveling light

In the past few years since the advent of online check-in, doing so for international flights wasn’t an option. At least it wasn’t a perk accessible to this mostly domestically voyaging iconoclast. It was with delight, then, that arvin and I arrived at SFO with our boarding passes, passports and carry-on baggage an hour and a half prior to departure without having to queue up for anything other than the obligatory security checkpoint. After clearing that uneventful hurdle, we spent an easy hour in the admirals’ club in brand new terminal 2 – luxury amid newness. If you haven’t been to an airport lounge, I can assure you these clubs offer a far more comfortable setting for sipping airport coffee than do the rows upon rows of black cattle chairs surrounding the departure gates. And the bathrooms, if today’s was any indication, are lovely: like those in a Sofitel. But they’re not for everyone. Oh no. They’re pleasant but they’re nothing to strive for in life. Save your money and spare yourself the anxiety. Better to struggle to put your children through college than to aspire to annual membership in one of these iffy country clubs. Trust me.

Mind you, we don’t fly this way all the time. The only reason we had access to the lounge is because in February of this year I cashed in all of my mileage on american airlines and booked us two round-trips between san francisco and western europe. I had just enough miles to get us first class passage between sfo and jfk, with business-class accommodations across the pond. We’d been wanting to visit greece and rome ever since we met, and I since I was in college. Given that world economics are in shit for the unforseeable future and America’s 2012 political posturing more closely resembles a Fellini film than it does a democratic process in what is (used to be?) the world’s finest nation, we said ‘why the hell not’ of our decision to spend a coupling weeks paying 1.4 dollars to the euro.

Arvin in Admirals Club

Arvin in Admirals Club

Fuck the poor


Let them fly coach

I like the concept of flying: one Ativan, three cocktails, and five hours later I’m on the East Coast.

It’s truly ingenious, especially considering it took 86 weeks (or something horrendous like that) to make it cross-country by stagecoach a hundred years ago.

Time flies.

Fortunately or not, so do the rest of us.

Like I said, I like the concept of flying. I can’t say that I care much for the actual carrying-out of it, though.

As we know all too well, there is the disingenuousness: “Sir, we had no idea the plane originating in Sweden and connecting through Cleveland would be downsized…”

There are lies: “Of course the seat reclines.” Which it didn’t. No matter how hard I clicked the button and jammed the seat back during the entire 11 hours from SFO to Heathrow. (I know better now, thanks to the gods at

And then of course, there are the seats

Veal Economy Class

Welcome home.

It’s that time of year: holiday travel time. Gnaw off your elbows and pray you packed your muscle relaxants. Surrender your dignity and comfort as you join the huddled masses in Veal Economy Class.

In California, whence I hail, veal calves, pigs and chickens have better legal protections than gay men and women.* And probably airline passengers as well. For anywhere from $300 to $1200 you can fly coach roundtrip—excuse me, Economy Class (aka World Traveler and other euphemisms)—between SF and DC and share four inches of elbow space as well as a closeup view of the cowlick on the back of the head of the person in front of you.

I’m probably an inch shy of average height for an American man, yet even I find it physically impossible to retrieve something from my carry on bag beneath the seat in front of me if that passenger has reclined the merest 3 degrees. With the forward seat at perfect vertical my knees have perhaps an inch of spare space provided there are no survival tools like magazines, water bottle or bags of granola in the seat pocket ahead. (How likely is that?) Work with an open laptop?…Ha!!

Wait…We pay money for this?!

I would gladly pay 15 or 20% more for a ticket to be given a modicum of humane space and reasonable treatment on a flight over two hours. I paid $320 each for Arvin and me to go back East for Thanksgiving this year (prescription drugs not included). Twenty-some years ago I paid $269 roundtrip, connecting through St Louis. That’s an increase of less than 2.5% per year in the cost of a roundtrip ticket, well below the inflation rate.

With the passage of Prop 2, veal calves should be able to turn around in their cages. We enduring the friendly skies should be as lucky.

*(Of course I’m not really making a real comparison about treatment. I’m glad Prop 2 passed. The treatment of veal calves is atrocious, and it’s about time we started treating creatures that provide us with sustenance with a little bit of civility before we slit their throats. And yes, I am still annoyed about Prop 8.)