Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The Journey

I made it! I don't know how, but I'm alive. I flew back to Vermont two weekends in a row. I don't recommend it.

Two weekends ago I flew Northwest (flight 18 from here to JFK, and 17 on the way back). Northwest is pretty bad on that route. The service is consistently crap, as I've done the 'how long does it take them to notice that my flight attendant call light is on' test on several occasions. It routinely takes them over 20 minutes to get around to checking on what it is that I need. Just as often I've simply given up after close to an hour of waiting. But hey, they're usually the cheapest out of Narita.

One of my best friends from high school, Jesse, got married. That's why I went the first time. Took off on Saturday, arrived in Burlington, VT at 11:45PM that night, and was promptly whisked away by my brother, Scott, and sister, Kate. The wedding coincided nicely with Kate's 21st birthday, so we headed straight to the bars to welcome the opening moments of her newborn legality.

Jetlagged and drunk, I finally got to sleep at about 4AM Sunday morning at my brother's apartment. Woke up at eight. My body was not happy. We had a family brunch down in Middlebury at Tully and Marie's to go to, so I emptied my stomach, did the three S's and threw on a suit. I wasn't able to eat very much at brunch, so I worked on rehydrating myself and catching up with Granny. We spent a little down time at her house following the meal, and then it was off to the Lilac Inn in Brandon.

To make a long story short, the bar was open before the ceremony even got under way. I had plenty of time to hug and greet all of my old buddies and walk out into the garden for Jesse and Zita's big moment. It was a beautiful, hot day in late May, and I started nailing wine glasses filled with ice water. The wedding lasted about 12 minutes, and the gallery promptly started the party. By the end of the night, the bride was dancing on the bar at the pub down the street, so I'd say they got off to a good start. I flew back to Japan the next morning.

The second leg of the journey started last Friday. I took number three of my five paid sick days off from work, and headed off for Vermont again. American Airlines this time. I was skeptical at first (flight 168 to JFK), but the AA Boeing 777's are much more comfy than the planes that NW flies on the same route. I had a lot more space, and my own little TV to boot. One of the big drawbacks to AA is that they charge five bucks for beer in coach. That was a first. I've flown international flights on NW, Korean Air, Iberia and Air Canada, but noone has ever asked me to pony up for a Bud. The amount of food provided also felt slightly sparse in comparison to Northwest. All in all, however, the comfort level was considerably higher with AA. NW crams 10 seats (3/4/3) in a row on this route, whereas AA gets by with 9 (2/5/2). That extra seat makes a big difference. AA arrives at terminal 8 at JFK airport. It's a hole in comparison to terminal 4 (NW's parking area). On the flipside, NW flight 17 (the return to Tokyo) doesn't park at a gate. It stops way the hell out in the middle of nowhere, and you have to spend an extra 10 minutes on a bus zigzagging your way to immigration. That's a surefire way to leave a bad taste in your mouth, even if you do give out whiskey for free during the flight. AA manages to creep all the way up to the building before putting the blocks behind the wheels on flight 167 from New York.

The second trip was made in order to attend my mother's ordination. She's now a deacon in the Episcopal Church, so I guess that means I have to watch my mouth around her now. Kelly came with me this time, and we were fortunate that Scott put us through only one bottle of wine down at Half on Church Street before letting us go to bed. The ceremony was held at the cathedral in Burlington--a concrete block with a hole blasted out of it for a sacristy. Uncle Roger, uncle Reed, uncle Bill and uncle Pete all came up from Wisconsin, Tennessee, Virginia and New York respectively. Aunt Emily, aunt Beth, aunt Darinda and my cousins Charlie and Michael made it, too. All the regulars were there except for mom's father, Papa, who was at his new home down in Middlebury.

Lots of family friends were able to make it as well, and most of the crowd trickled down Route 7 to St. Stephen's in Middlebury for a reception that my father organized. By the end of the night I was a bit out of it, and I hardly remember witnessing the upsets of Smarty Jones and the LA Lakers. Kelly and I stayed through Sunday for a family-packed day (including Papa's 80th birthday), and then we woke up at 4AM Monday morning to come back home. The plane touched down Tuesday afternoon, and it's now Monday at a little after 6AM. Work starts soon. All of my paid sick days at work for the year are gone now, so I've got to make sure that this jetlag doesn't turn into something more severe. Time to hit the showers.

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