Wednesday, March 25, 2009
TBG's Desert Travel Diary - Part II
Thursday, March 12
12:45 PM: I hate flying. Always have. As a young That Bootleg Lad growing up in the '80s, it seemed that every other week another commercial flight had been hijacked. And, that doesn't include the DAILY imagery of Starscream, Thundercracker and Skywarp being routinely shot down by Autobot fire. As we take off to Phoenix from San Diego, the plane's structure croaks and groans like the bones of those 30-year-old unemployed ex-NFL players often profiled on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.
12:55 PM: Usually, after a few minutes, the airplane's cabin stops shaking. The announcement bell softly rings – God's universal signal for me to stop praying – and the captain announces our cruising altitude before directing passengers to page 178 of the in-flight magazine for a list of beverages soon to be served. Except…the cabin is still shaking.
1:05 PM: Of the 100-some passengers on board, I'm clearly the first one to realize we're all going to die. The captain announces that "due to the bumpy road in front of us" the crew has decided to suspend drink service for the entirety of our 50 minute flight. At this point, I'm not sure if the "bumpy road" wisecrack is just a terrible analogy or a sign that our pilot doesn't realize he's flying a plane and not driving a Prius 10 mph through a mall's parking garage.
1:15 PM: Jalen has to go to the bathroom, again. Mrs. Bootleg agrees to take one for the team, as I'm too petrified to be amused at the hilarious level of terror the airplane's toilet creates within the boy. (Yeah, yeah…I know.) Seriously, though, I should sell tickets. Jalen can jump, butt-naked, from sitting on the stainless steel can to clinging from my neck in the blink of an eye. All because I once made the mistake of flushing while Jalen was still pooping. Those things are loud. Not sure he'll ever recover.
1:30 PM: The captain announces that we've begun our "final descent" into Phoenix. I ask Mrs. Bootleg if they always say "final". She assures me that they do, but I remain wary. Then, in a moment of betrayal that I'll never forget, my only son says to no one in particular, "I'm gonna lean back and make the plane crash!" Mrs. Bootleg gently, but sternly schools the boy on proper airplane etiquette. Meanwhile, my heart beats gently, but sternly out of my f*****g chest.
1:45 PM: And, we're on the ground. Pfft…piece of cake. By the by, within the grand pantheon of jackasses, I propose that the people who applaud at the end of a flight are worse than those that applaud at the end of movie in the theater. Discuss.
2:30 PM: Hey, it's our old friend: "pushy rental car clerk"! This one's especially annoyed at our refusal to accept insurance and even gives us the exasperated "OK, if that's what you want" response. Of course, NOW I'm worried that the ol' battle-axe has put some sort of door-ding, fender-bender juju on us.
3:30 PM: We arrive at the Sheraton Desert Oasis in pretentious Scottsdale, Arizona. The hotel is actually a series of stand-alone three-story buildings. The rooms are numbered rather randomly and I'm certain that I'm going to get insanely lost on these grounds before the weekend is over.
3:45 PM: I head down to the car to bring the rest of our bags and manage to get insanely lost on my way back. Hey, 15 minutes…a new record! I call Mrs. Bootleg and – as usual – she doesn't pick up her phone. Those of you who know my cell number know that I'm embarrassingly terrible about picking up MY phone. In my defense, it's always on vibrate and – really – I can never feel the damn thing. Mrs. Bootleg's is on vibrate, too, except I can feel hers from across the room when it goes off.
3:50 PM: I plop myself down on a bench with our assorted bags all around me. Current mood: a cross between "pack mule" and "pissed off martyr". Do I share some of the blame here? No. I'm a city boy who's used to street signs, directional arrows and liquor store landmarks. I've navigated the dodecahedron architecture of Las Vegas hotels that were easier to read than this place.
4:00 PM: Mrs. Bootleg has talked me back to our room. I'm in a bit of a mood, but my anger is alleviated when I discover that Arizona is the only state in the union that still airs The Wayans Bros. in syndication. And, The Steve Harvey Show starts at 5:00 PM?! OK, Arizona…you're officially overcompensating for that whole Martin Luther King Day controversy from 20 years ago. Still, I approve.
5:30 PM: We meet up with one of my oldest friends, "JPinAZ", for dinner. Between us, we have two wives and three children. An evening out with Jalen means an extra level of vigilance. He's previously darted off into restaurant kitchens, women's restrooms (giggedy) and under other booths. The trick is anticipating potential tomfoolery before it appears. So far, he's been a good little boy. I determine it's now safe to turn off my patriarch radar.
6:15 PM: Jalen's pizza arrives…without pepperoni. My defenses were down. Didn't we order it with pepperoni? We always order pepperoni for the boy. Mrs. Bootleg and I have an established drill for moments like these, but everything's just happening too fast. Plates of food are being passed around and my son's emotional meltdown is eminent. Can my son get some goddam pepperoni…!
6:15 PM and 10 seconds: Mrs. JP offers to switch her daughter's pepperoni pie with my son's naked abomination. Whew. Just…whew.
Next: Dunkin' Donuts, Jack Cust and guess who gets lost AGAIN!