By Milt Abel | March 25, 2012
My love of Costco is flawed: you have to buy such regrettable vast quantities. You can get a great deal on double-A batteries, but only 48 at a time. I could walk around my house like Johnny Appleseed and drop batteries in every remote and still have a satchel half-full of batteries to cast about. So I need a place to store my reserves. Because of warehouse shopping I need my own warehouse. I may need my own forklift in the future. Not yet, but when I do, hopefully I can buy just one.
Costco and batteries are on my mind because the remote control in my St Louis LaQuinta hotel room didn’t work last night and I had to substitute my own Kirklands (I’ve even got them tucked in my luggage). I carry a few bound with a rubber band for portable electronics when I travel and now they are laying atop the unused of the two queen beds on my room, along with the two dead batteries of a different brand, and I’m ruminating about what to tell the front desk. My faith in human nature has sunk; I fear if I tell them the batteries are dead at this late hour of my stay, they will wonder why I didn’t say something sooner and maybe it’s a ruse to simply reap good batteries for dead, as I go from hotel to hotel. I worry they will suspect this long before believing I had extra batteries with me and used those. Or, would it be less concern to just leave the good batteries in, and eat the expense. Travel is a moral and logistic nightmare.
A good friend and great comic, Gary Mule Deer has a line I’ve loved since the first time I heard it: “La Quinta is an old Mexican word meaning ‘next to Denny’s’.” And look for yourself:
After taking a photo showing the Denny’s and the LaQuinta side-by-side I decided to go back and get someone to snap one with me in the picture. If you look hard on the photo on the left there are people in that blue sedan in the foreground. I had asked the driver to get out and grab a picture of me but he failed to catch the Denny’s sign. Before he got out of his car he put his near-empty Corona beer bottle down in the driver’s footwell and told the other two ladies in the car, everyone dressed for church though it was a Saturday morning and probably in their late forties, that he’d be right back. Drinking in the parking lot of a Denny’s at 10AM on a Saturday morning, is there a better way to begin a weekend of regret?
A couple hours before this photo I had passed on the free continental breakfast at LaQuinta for something more substantial at this Denny’s next door. Adding ‘continental’ to anything implies an upgrade of sorts, except in the arena of hotel lobby free breakfasts, then I think pasty pastries and Fruit Loops spilling from hoppers into Styrofoam bowls.
At Denny’s I got the FitFare Veggie Skillet and was embarrassed for the first five minutes it sat at my table. They served it like fajitas, in a black cast-iron skillet that was so hot the veggies sizzled and popped and steamed so loudly and profusely, if I was a cat I would have skittered away. It was too loud, too active; I felt I was in danger being so close to it. I tried pushing the vegetables around to get everything to cool off but it just exposed new items to being vaporized. If there were safety goggles I would have put them on. And it just didn’t stop. Everyone around me was trying not to look, but how could they not? They, with their traditionally quiet pancakes, and me with my volcano. And I kept wondering how long would it take to stop drawing attention, when it would be safe to approach to eat? What was the half-life of a FitFare Veggie Skillet?
It was good when I eventually got to it. Filling. Maybe too much so. When I got back to my room I managed to put too much demand on the plumbing and wrote a note with from the little scribble pads they keep near the phone. ‘Clogged’ and set it on the closed lid, then got prolific and wrote ‘dead batteries’ for a note set next to the opened remote with its batteries (not mine) still on the bed. The notes had to be irksome, and probably kept the room attendant from replacing the notepad. I always take those.
By Milt Abel | March 9, 2012
What a Wondeful World
Having grown up seeing my fair share of television medical dramas, it’s unnerving to walk through Tokyo’s Narita airport with so many people wearing surgical masks. You get the feeling an ad-hoc surgery, like a flash mob, is just a few seconds away. Already jet-lagged and hopping between flights, I worried if I feel asleep across the bench-like seats near my gate I’d wake up noticing I was not only missing my flight, but a kidney as well.
I passed through Tokyo’s airport on my way back from Australia and Indonesia. I had just finished ten days aboard the Crystal Serenity where we sailed from Perth, up and through Indonesia, and finally Singapore, which was used as a turnaround port of sorts. Unlike my usual gig of a seven day cruise, this was a 17 day segment of a 78 day world cruise, where a good fraction of the passengers boarded in Sidney and disembarked in Singapore; vacating their cabins for new passengers to sail the next segment; Singapore to Hong Kong.
There were 274 people doing the complete 78 day cruise that left Los Angeles, sailed around Australia, up through Southeast Asia, Japan and Russia, then across to Alaska and back down to L.A. Pricey? On this very high-end line? You betcha. Once, when it was just myself and another male passenger riding in an elevator, I tossed off some inconsequential trifle about the cruise. He commented back, in a bored and bothered tone, “We’re doing the entire cruise. One hundred thousand dollars. But if it makes my wife happy…” And then he stepped out before the doors closed behind him. My wife and I argue about money, mostly about keeping track of it, and just a few dollars, properly accounted for, gets her in a good mood.
We stopped in Bali, and I had intended to go to the local high school so I could get a picture of Bali High -nothing wrong with a visual pun to share on Facebook or over coffee with friends as we pass our smartphones back and forth looking at photos. But it was so hot, we were near the equator in the summer, and the locals were such a pestering lot for taxi rides and tours, that I barely got a quarter mile and turned back for the comfort of the ship. To prove I’d been to Bali, I did stop and take a picture with someone who just happened to be nearby. Looking at the photo I think I chose him because his belly was slightly larger than mine; I appear in better shape by default.
When we pulled away I heard the ship’s public address system blare out Louie Armstrong’s recording of ‘What a Wonderful world.’ I had heard it as we left Perth as well, and it became obvious by the time we left our second stop in Indonesia, Semerang, that it was the ship’s signature of sailing off to the next port of call.
Semerang reminded me of Vietnam. Another guest entertainer and myself took a taxi into town so he could buy some asthma medicine at about a fifth of the price it would cost him in the States. Of course there was a little nagging doubt about the medicine’s purity and effectiveness, but the price alone allowed him to breath easier. We rode for a good ten miles through the city and neighboring urban sprawl and accompanying us every inch of the way was a swarming horde of motorcycles. A father had his three girls siting behind him on one, but it didn’t stop him and all the other motorbikes from flowing around our cab like we were a stone in a river.
The mall were we bought the asthma medicine was an unforgettable warren of shops, and levels, and side alleys, and kiosks, and storefronts all under one roof. We were escorted, by one of the few locals that spoke English, from the pharmacy to a moneychanger hundreds of stores away inside this mall. It became comical, then absurd, then frighteningly disorienting because of so many turns and escalators and clusters of stores we needed to pass. Without that guide we might have never made it back and forth to the pharmacy, maybe ever out of the mall altogether. It’s worth noting, even though we were weaving through a second to third world economy marketplace, every third shop consisted solely of cell phone accessories.
Watching how the locals lived and worked during our taxi ride back to the ship reminded me how lucky I was to live in the affluence of United States. I think it was very telling that this luxury ship played ‘What a Wonderful World’ as we pulled away and left these ports behind, rather than as we pulled in.
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