Friday, February 16, 2001

Here is the beginning of my tale

Here is the beginning of my tale. A capricious tale of travel and observations. 

It is the tale similar to the Odyssey (okay maybe that's stretching it). Traveling from place to place, sometimes with strangers, sometimes with people I know, seeking personal satisfaction, a greater meaning to life, and Aeroplan Elite status. Looks like within the next month I’m going to visit the major North American metropolitan destinations as well as a jaunt across the pond to London. I thought you may be interested in hearing (reading) my tale as I go.

WARNING: MAY OFFEND SOME due to slanderous remarks about the transportation system and other stupid people in general

Background info: I have not bought soap in over 4 years. And I was building a very large individually wrapped shower cap collection until I realized I was never going to use one. Okay, so I’ve been doing this traveling thing for a bit. I know never to check baggage, even on a weeklong. I know always to bring headphones even if you don’t have music, so that you can put them on incase the person next to you seems like a “chatter”. And I know that being a flight attendant must be the worst job in the world.

Why do people only ever drink Clamato on the plane?

Date: January 8th & 9th, 2001

Destination #1: Kansas City, Kansas/Kansas City, Missouri (actually Lenexa, Kansas)

Pop: 453 000 (okay, Lenexa’s only a couple thousand)

City of Fountains – also right next to Levenworth prison

Total Travel Time: 5 ½ hours + 5 hours return.

Time at Destination: less than 24 hours

One city--two mayors (one female!). What a wacky way to start this trip. A good contrast to what I’m going to be seeing I hope. When I first came to Kansas, the folks out here joked with me about “the” tree. Well, turned out not to be much of a joke. Kansas is flat. And yes, Midwesterners are very nice. But dull.

However, Kansas City is home to which great Jazz player?

Things, as a Canadian, I will never get used to:

1. Dead possums by the side of the road

2. Molsons as an imported beer

3. Billboards for hospital care

4. Men waiting for me to get on and off the elevator first

5. Having to ask for a “hot tea”

Things as a Canadian, I am jealous of:

1. National Public Radio

... That’s pretty much it.


Date: January 22nd & 23rd, 2001 

Destination: Boston, MA

Pop: 550 000 in Boston proper, 6 million in GBA

Total Travel Time Return including 2 flight delays: 8 hours

Time at Destination: less than 24 hours

Short update for short visit.

Once again, I'm the only female in business class on this flight. And I'm probably the only one
under 30 as well (what am I doing here?). All elements of Boston are always under construction –
airport, roads, downtown buildings. No time to explore particularly, just a quick clam chowder
before off to the airport again. Lacking any inspiration for witticisms. Sorry all. 
Good news is -- San Fran, LA, and Dallas have been cancelled and replaced by Lake Tahoe.

Date: Jan 26th – Jan 30th,

Destination: London, UK

Population: round 7 million

Total Travel Time: about 24 hours

Time at Destination: couple of days

Well, a little more fun here than else
where. Arrived a few days before I’m scheduled to do my monkey dance –
or be a demo bitch, whatever your preferred terminology.

Toured about (aBOOOT) from Piccadilly
square to Trafalgar square and then a stroll by the Themes. 
The food has been amazing (believe it or not), but that’s because
we’ve only had French and Indian.  I
shopped at Harrods on the busiest day of the year – the final sales day
in January.

The men of London are dashingly
outfitted and, as far as I can tell, not all gay. 
Remind me to come back this way.

In the desperately chic neighbourhood
of Kensington, we pass a Japanese confectionary. 
Picture beautiful sushi-like creations, but sweet, in wrapped in
delicate hand-made paper and tucked into miniature boxes. 
Got chatted up by one of the policemen in Trafalgar Square who
apologised profusely for assuming we were American. 
Indulged the science geek in me by visiting the Royal Astronomical
Society.  Taking the tube with
not one person speaking English (what am I doing here?) Ribena drinkin’



Jan 30th – Jan 31st, 2001

Destination: Manhattan

Population: a zillion at least

Total Travel Time: 12 hours from London thanks to an unscheduled landing
in Boston on the way back due to NY weather

Time at Destination: less than 24 hours

Traveling with the President of the company has some
perks. Yes, you are left alone in the cattle lines at airports, hotels,
etc. because he’s a platinum member of everything.  But you also
get into exclusive lounges, restaurants and limos.  Our president is
a strange bird, a bit of a mid-western nerd from Kansas, who loves
expensive things. The dollar value of the wine ingested each night exceeds
the cost of the hotels, I’m sure.  Our NY office is next to Times
Square and dinner tonight was across from Carnegie Hall at an expensive
Italian restaurant, famous for it’s antipasto bar.  He tells us
things he shouldn’t.  I walk back to the hotel, mind swimming with
questions on what his motivations are to tell us the inner workings of the
executive team and the board of directors.  Just as we’re about to
cross Broadway, a car makes an illegal left turn in front of us and hits a
cyclist.  People walk around the guy lying on the ground, half on the
sidewalk, half in the street.  (What the hell am I doing here?
We help the guy up and he’s shocked more than anything -- at the
accident or us helping him, I can’t tell.

Feb 2nd – 7th, 2001

Destination: Chicago, IL

Population: less than NY more than Lenexa, KS

Total Travel Time: course a few delays but no big deal

Time at Destination: Can you believe it? Over 5 days!

Okay this is a little surreal. I just had the most
outrageously amazing meal at Blackbird. Last minute cancellation gave us a
window into the most popular restaurant in Chicago <insert commercial
here> ”America’s 10 Best New Chefs”, Food and Wine Magazine.
“Best new restaurant”, Bon Appetit Magazine.<end commercial>

Ever feel like your life has a soundtrack? As I walked
into the restaurant, my currently favorite song is playing – Rose Rouge
by St. Germain – album name? Tourist.

Very personal attention by the owner including lots of
freebees that keep appearing at the table even though they haven’t been
ordered, like appetizers, a glass of wine that just MUST accompany the
foie gras we ordered.

I’m a little drunk now, amazing wine, amazing food, and no room for
dessert. So a glass of Ice Zinfandel each, and Margaret casually remarks to
me that wouldn’t a few truffles be perfect right now? A moment later, a
large rectangular white plate with two passionfruit truffles, a candied
mango slice, and a mini biscotti, just magically appear.

My dinner companion is the woman who was to be my boss,
but isn’t. I’m guessing she’s in her early 50s, very classy, very
confident, expensive tastes, and probably making a shitload of money at
this company (the best way to provide golden handcuffs), and after many hours of
discussions and travel with her, I find out divorced about 5, 6 years ago,
no children. She has a large house to herself in Oakland California that
she bought when she separated from her husband; it’s new, was rebuild
after the fires in 1991. She is a complete foodie, and attends California
masters of wine and food, and can name every famous chef in North America.
Has attended cooking classes with the chef from Monsoon (a wonderful
Toronto restaurant). She informs me that the chef from Monsoon has opened
another restaurant in Toronto she would like to try.

Ever see those “Freedom 55” commercials where a
30-something has a conversation with his or her 55 year old self? That
could have been dinner last night. I see a lot of myself in her and my
worry is that she doesn’t seem happy. And she’s a bit uptight. Anyhoo…

We are seated very closely along a wall of banquets, next to two, how
shall I put it, rich bitches, maybe in late thirties or early forties.
Perfectly coiffed (frosted tips), one with a facelift already I suspect,
and appointed with many expensive accessories, who lightly chat us up
“isn’t this a deeevine restaurant” & “oh, Philip (one of the
owners who is serving our tables – crazy dreads and barbell piercing in
the middle of his lower lip) is outdoing himself again” & “we’re
going to the ladies room would you mind watching our phones?” (On the
menu it says “15% gratuity on parties over 6, no scented cigarettes, NO
cell phones”) Obligingly, we say, of course not. When their
personal-trainer-supervised buns leave the table no doubt to purge the
delightfully artistic meals they’ve just consumed, Margaret and I look at
each other. Margaret leans over and tells me just how loaded these ladies are
– Margaret knows expensive things and recognizes the one’s watch –
Cartier. The “run-of-the-mill” version goes for $20K US. The version
our neighbour is donning this chilly Chicago evening has diamond chips
covering the entire watch band. Margaret’s educated guess $120K US.

Now I feel like tossing my spring green garlic soup with
escargot, parsley, brioche croutons and chervil. (What the hell am I doing
here?) The ladies return giggling, and ask – did anyone call? “the
White House, Donald Trump? Tee hee hee.”

We finish our wine, hail a taxi to go back to the Hilton, and cross a
dimensional portal into an alternate universe. Enter madness and suburban
mayhem in downtown Chicago. Our hotel is the location of the annual
Chicago Cubs fan convention. The lobby is dotted with Cubs players, in the
centre of circles of fans waving hats, shirts, and most alarmingly bats,
for their favorite pitchers to sign. Pre-pubescent boys standing
breast-high next to women wearing bikini tops angling so that the players
will sign their chests. Blue-rinsed ladies with Chicago Cubs t-shirts,
hats, little triangular flags on sticks, polyester pants and cameras
swarming along the periphery, news crews trying to get a few pat phrases
out of the players -- “You know, the fans are what it’s all about”
-- for the 11 o’clock news.

I take a deep breath, squish my way through the crowds, ducking cameras,
make it to the elevators and finally to my room. Take off my shoes, turn
off the lights and begin to sleep off my strange experiences.




Feb 7th – 8th, 2001

Destination: Lake Tahoe

Population: 100 000ish (80% tourists)

Total Travel Time: 5 hours there and no delays (!)

Rounded up my visit to Chicago with a few more wonderful meals (including
Le Coloniale – a French Vietnamese delight), Chicago deep dish pizza, an
architecture tour and a jazz bar. OKAY SO I LIKE BEING A TOURIST IN
CHICAGO. As I was sitting in my favorite coffee/bookshop watching the
Chicago crowds bustle by, had to call Justin up and make him jealous :)

Now, in front of me is Reno airport and
an hour & half long bus ride to Lake Tahoe. Have absolutely NO idea
what to expect. I think they ski here. I think I’m in Nevada (the
Gambling state?), and I think this is Mountain time, not Pacific. Can you
say clueless? I might as well have attended geography classes at an inner
city school in South Central LA (but don’t ask me to point it out on a

I’ve arrived at the hotel. Okay so
it’s not Mountain time – it’s Pacific. What the hell is in Mountain
time?! I’ve never been there. And now I find out I’m in California,
not Nevada. I’ll never win on Jeopardy. But I was right about two things
-- they gamble and ski here. Slot machines, video poker, etc in the
airport terminal, in the hotel lobby, in every restaurant and bar.

Unnecessary Advice: Don’t ever spend
more than 5 minutes of your life in Carson City Nevada.


Date: Feb 8th, 9:58 pm Pacific or Feb 9th,
12:56 am Eastern

Destination: Los Angeles

I’m sitting in LAX waiting for my flight home (delayed of course). Just met
the hip little Asian guy from YTV. He was here trying to drum up some acting
work. Nice guy; he says hi to all of you reading this.

Ah, they are boarding my row. Here is the end
of my tale. Hope you’ll think twice before selling your soul to the e-business

P.S. Toronto – Feb 10th 9:30 am EST. It’s
been 14 days since I started this trip – 10 flights, 9 flight delays, 8
cities, 6 states, 4 time zones, 3 countries, 2 continents, 2 lost bags (broke my
“never check rule” and paid for it), only 1(!) urge to murder an Air Canada
employee. Finally home now. And I know what the hell I’m doing here.