Friday, August 16, 2013

Florida - The Trip So Far (my overly long and maybe boring account)

Somehow, yesterday, the black cloud faded and no longer obscured the skies over my head and a good bit on sunshine and good fortune rained down on me. The gods must have been taking a break. It turned out my son was off from work and was able to give me a ride to the airport with three quick stops along the way. The first was to get gas for his car, the second was to the bank to fill my pockets with cash for my imminent trip and the third was to a supermarket to buy Mango and Peach baby foods so Brendan will be able to easily feed my Crested Geckos while I am in Florida. Then it was to the airport. 

We made good time, there was no traffic to speak of along our route. Luckily, along the way, I saw one of two highways, that we could take for the beginning of the ride, was moving as slow as a snail and we took the other one, virtually right next to the one with traffic at that point. We had planned to eat at the diner right across the street from the airport but nothing lasts forever. As we pulled into the parking lot, Brendan asked: Is it open. Weeds were overgrown in the garden in the parking lot and the windows were dark. It looks to have been closed at least for months. Oh well, straight into the airport since Brendan was not all that hungry.

Brendan dropped me off and I lugged my fairly large and heavy bag out of the car and then rolled it into the terminal. Whoever put wheels on suitcases was a genius. I headed right to the check in counter, where two of the three ladies behind it urged me to use the self-check-in machine. I told them I needed one of them to check me in because I had a firearm in my luggage, at which point, a woman they had been attending to dropped her jaw about six inches and stood there momentarily gaping at me and then gave me a nasty scornful frown and finally turned back around to mind her own business. It would have been comical had it not been so sad, the anti-gun hysteria in her demeanor was obvious. The third check-in lady then came over and checked me in. She was pleasant and handed me a small card to fill out with my name and address and some statement saying the gun was unloaded and other stuff to that effect. She also called the airport police who showed up in about half a minute.

The first officer to arrive, a young blonde lady, asked if I had a pistol license, which I handed her along with my LEOSA card. She wrote down the info she needed, then took a look to make sure the pistol was not loaded even though I had a cable lock through it and it was obviously in that condition. I am not faulting her, was doing her job and doing it well. She took a look in the chamber and truth be told - even with the cable lock - there could have been a round in the chamber. Once she was satisfied it was empty, she handed it to me and I put it back into its case, put the case back into the attaché case in which I had it before and put the attaché case back in my luggage. Then it was over to TSA, and they took a quick look, I locked up the gun in its case and TSA put the bag on the conveyor belt to direct it to the plane. It would have about a two hour wait, I got to the airport pretty early. It would be a nice wait that had been preceded by genuinely courteous and just plain nice treatment from the check-in lady, the two police officers and the TSA guy who took my luggage.

Then I headed to the TSA passenger screening area. As I walked up toward the checkpoint, there had to have been at least 15 little signs all directing passengers to do this or that or et another thing. It would have taken minutes to read them all so I just plodded on and once at the checkpoint, I emptied my pockets into a plastic bin, was instructed to take off my belt and glasses and to empty my pockets completely even though I had just done so, was asked if my laptop bag had a computer in it, which the TSA guy took out and placed alone in a bin, and then I stepped into an x-ray booth. As it was operating for the second or two it took, I though "whoops, I should have asked for an alternative"; having had intensive radiation therapy for cancer, I am not supposed to get more of it now than what absolutely cannot be avoided. Oh well, I asked about that and they told me that next time I could ask for a patdown, which they did anyway because the machine indicated I still had something in my right pants pocket - which I did not. Once again, everyone was polite. With all the complaining one often hears about TSA, and with some past not so great experiences I had with them, and with my history of a black cloud following me around, I was absolutely fucking amazed.

Right after the TSA screening, I went to the gate area and spotted he bar. I sat down for three pints. The first was a Stella Artois which was followed by two wheat beers, the name of which eludes me at the moment. Funny, I remember the name of the barmaid - Mo! It's not often you meet anyone named Mo, I guess sit just stuck in my head. At the bar, once again, all was good. I finished up about 20 minutes before my scheduled departure and headed to the gate where I boarded the plane about 1 minutes later. The air trip was pretty much uneventful but only because I and folks around me tolerated not so much the kid who was crying and screaming for 3/4 of the trip but his parent who kept blowing a high pitched whistle as it that would scare off the evil spirits that were making the kid scream in what sounded like agony.  That whistle was annoying enough to have added substantially to any discomfort and pain the child was experiencing due to being unable to equalize the pressure in his ears with that of the cabin.

The folks who sat next to me, I was in the back of the plane in a window seat, were an older couple. The lady sat next to me and was quite petite which in its own way was a blessing because it meant I would not have layers of sweaty flab brushing against me for the duration of the flight. They were very nice and had a small white dog in a yellow dog carrier that she had under the seat in front of her. It barked quite a few times during the flight but not an annoyed or annoying bark but one of hey, don't forget about me down here in this bag. It wanted out and wanted to play or get some affection.

The only other thing I will say about the flight was that I purchased Wi-Fi use while on the plane. I can't recommend it to anyone else. The service was slow, v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w. In addition, I tried to sign onto my blog and Google kept telling me that I was signing on from a suspect location and I needed to receive a verification code from them via a text message to my cell phone. Of course, the cell phone did not have a signal. It was a waste of eight bucks.

Oh well, all in all, the flight wen well. It was smooth sailing almost all the way with only a tiny bit of turbulence. Oh there I one more little thing. Fuck the steward who refused to give me even a small drink of water when I asked because my throat was sort seizing up as it does now and again since I had radiation therapy. I could barely talk, just enough to get out I needed some water why I needed it. He was standing there, doing nothing while trying his best to look smugly important as he refused my request. As I deplaned, I told him to fuck himself and my guess is that he later obliged, he looked - sounded - and acted like - the type. Every other crewmember was quite nice.

At the airport in West Palm Beach, I grabbed a rental car and then headed to the hotel which was about 1/2 a mile or less from the car rental lot. The hotel was a Holiday Inn, I am still there, as I blog. I was pretty surprised at how filthy were the floors in the entry, the lobby and the elevator. The trash can by the elevators was overflowing with garbage. The wallpaper was torn and coming off right outside my room's entry door. The door itself was slightly damaged where it has obviously been pried open before. Inside my room, the wallpaper coming off the wall in my room's bathroom was a bit of a surprise as was the mold that had apparently eaten away at the glue holding it to the wall. It also took over 15 minutes for the AC to kick in after I had turned the thermostat from 70 to 66, subsequently it worked okay even if a little more noisy than most. Add to that the fact that there was little to no AC in the lobby or in the hallways, a somewhat snotty check-in clerk, not being greeted as a Priority Club member on check-in, and I was beginning to think I was in a less than mediocre hotel, by third world standards at best.

Luckily the room, despite the mold in the one spot under the peeling wallpaper, was fairly clean and acceptable even if a little on the well-used side. The bed was comfortable. I got a good night's sleep up until the maid banged on my door several times, saying "housekeeping" each time she knocked. That would not have been bad except that it was at 0805 and I had the do not disturb sign in keycard slot. It was a little early for a maid to come a knocking. Oh well, I went back to sleep for a little while and dragged myself out of bed by 0915 with just a little hangover. Last night, after I checked in at the hotel, I visited my cousin Sandie up in Jupiter and took her out to dinner at Little Moirs - Leftovers Café. When I looked at the menu, largely seafood but each dish with about 10 different ingredients, I thought I was about to have a less than delicious dinner. Man was I wrong. I had the Thursday Night Plate. It consisted of blackened Cobia and broiled shrimp over a bed of home fired potatoes that had a bunch of vegetables mixed in (and not too much of any of them) with spices and feta cheeses drizzled over it and a salad with apples and spices on the same plate. It was a lot of food and it all tasted great. Well, I cannot say much about the salad as I only had about a mouthful at best since the rest of the meal left no room. Sandie told me that they all the place leftovers because almost everyone goes home with a doggie bag. There was nothing left on my plate except the salad so no doggie bag for me. That was probably the best restaurant meal I have had in years. The service was also great. We had a very attentive and nice waitress and such was reflected in her tip. Then we went to Sandie's condo and had a glass of wine and BS'd for hours catching up on new things in our lives and going over the old memories of years gone by. We both had a good time at that. When I left, we were surprised to see it was pouring outside, I got drenched just running about 40 feet to the rental car. That made the drive to the hotel a bit slower than I would have hoped for, for about 3/4 of the drive. Then, I seemingly drove right passed the edge of the storm and things were dry at that point for the remainder of the drive. 

I got a fair sleep last night, it would have been much better if not for that maid banging repeatedly on my door. Breakfast today, included with my room rate was okay I suppose. The bacon was crisp but the sausage was disgustingly greasy and I am no heath food fanatic, I like my fat and grease in good amount. The eggs were barely room temperature if that. The home fries were over cooked and very dry. There was only one type of bread offered. The coffee was okay. The OJ dispenser and as I was about to ask to have it refilled, another guest asked if there was more French toast and was snapped at, with sort of a growl, by the guy putting out more home fries, that: "I am working on it". It was also none too clean in the buffet area where the food was kept. I will say, the young lady who took my breakfast ticket and who served coffee was quite pleasant though and very attentive. I may complain but I also give credit where and when due.

I stay at Holiday Inns now and again; for example I just stayed at one for a night up in NH a couple of weeks back. It was really a nice place, so much so that it makes my current hotel look like a dump. The current Holiday Inn reminds me of the reputation of Holiday Inns back in the 60s and early 70s; they were either great or disgusting depending on at which one you stayed. I don't recall exactly when, maybe the mid or late seventies, they got their act together and cleaned them all up and refurbished them and their reputation soared. Places like the one I am in now could put their reputation and ratings back to those of about 45 years or so ago. I have stayed in worse places before so I can tolerate this one for another night because I do not want to go through the hassle of moving to another hotel but I feel compelled to say this is the worst Holiday In in which I have stayed within at least the past 35 years. Still though, not as bad as many places I have stayed in over the years but certainly not up to Holiday Inn standards and a disappointment at that. 

I will have to remedy that today by going out and having some fun. Don't get me wrong, the sort of shabbiness of the hotel has not ruined anything for me, except my opinion of Holiday Inn. I have been having a great time otherwise, so far. I just suppose it is time for me to drag my butt out of the room and into the world and to get in some fun in for the day. I have no game plans for today except for doing something fun. I guess exploring is in order and hopefully I will explore my way right to some good times. 

All the best,
Glenn B