Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What To Do On Halloween 2006 In Utah

I'd been seeing advertisments around for a place called Rocky Point these last few weeks. Wasn't sure what it was. Turns out it was a haunted house, and this happened to be its final year. But to say this place is a haunted house is like saying the Titanic was a boat. We waited in line outside a huge warehouse with very creepy posters, and when an actor in dead guy makeup wandered through the line to mess with us, I actually thought he was a dead guy... the makeup was that good. Inside, the place was incredibly decorated, like theater set decorated. It was divided into several sections, to include graveyard, movie monsters, pirates, and the circus. Yes the circus. The graveyard section was of note because when dead people came up from behind tombstones, Thriller began to play, and they broke out into the original choreography from the video. What was neat about the movie monster section was not so much the monsters as the sets. Hellraiser, Halloween, Scream, Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre... I have seen all these movies, and the sets were detail-perfect. I felt like I was in the movies. And the Frankenstein part had a big lightning machine that made real six-foot lightning. You don't see that every Halloween. Before the circus section, creepy clowns handed out 3D glasses that made everything red seemingly stick out two feet. Combine that with tilted floors, black lights, a spinning tunnel that makes you fall over even though the floor you're on isn't moving, and you have one wacky time. One room had black walls with colored spots, and people with black and colored spot bodysuits hiding in plain sight against the walls. Very scary effect.
The whole rest of the night, I was waiting for things to jump out at me.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Gospel According To Best Buy

"And Samsung said unto them: Thou shalt recieve a television of inordinate size, capable of HD, and thou shalt pay more than thou shouldst for it. And then with this television thou wilt ascend the stairs in a most difficult fashion, straining both thy back and forearms, and those of thy roommate. And then the tiny living room of thy apartment (which thou usest as a bedroom because thou art ghetto) shalt be dominated by this television, and thou wilt have no place to put thy bed. But you shall endure these tribulations, because in my name thou shalt have TV!
And the people rejoiced, because TV is good."

The Curb Test

Was out at a place called the Gateway Mall, and had to park on the outskirts to get there. After a faceful of 'Cajun' seafood, we returned to find a ticket on the car. The ticket read, "PARKED WITHIN FIVE FEET OF HYDRANT." I was dubious... it looked like more than five feet. The only thing I had on me to measure an increment of five feet was me, so...

Knowing I am 5'9''... (oh, I mean 5'8''), proof was indisputable and victory was mine. It was a small victory though... the observant among you will notice that the curb there is red, and so I would have been illegal had I parked across town in that spot. But hey, any excuse to lay down on freezing concrete in front of the most affluent people in Salt Lake City...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Quest For Coat

Seems life out here is a series of quests. The latest one I've undertaken is for a good coat. When I got here, I grabbed a green sweatshirt from Wal-Mart, but recent weather has laughed at that endeavor. So I envisioned a Navy pea coat-type affair, and then sought to make it happen. Harder than you might think. They make all kinds of those things for chicks, but not for guys. Guy pea coats congregate in dark corners in Bangladesh, playing mahjongg drunkenly and scattering at my approach. I courted one at Kohl's for about twenty minutes, but it was just this much too small. And so, after a brief eternity and when I thought all hope was lost, I stumbled into Old Navy (where, apparently, I should have started), and the quest came to an end.

Here I stand, victorious and exulting in the skins of mine enemy. Pretty snappy, huh?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

An Evening Of Suck, With Evanescence

So a few days ago, I became aware that one of my favorite bands happened to be playing Salt Lake City at a place called the Great Salt Air. Evanescence is a dark and moody goth rock group from Arkansas, and the singer is good enough to transcend being in a dark and moody goth rock group and drag the rest of the band with her. I decided to go be in attendance, and was thrilled to find that tickets, that in other cities cost hundreds, were only 30 bucks.
This should have been a clue.
The Great Salt Air is an ancient resort that's about ten feet off the actual Salt Lake. Built in the early 1800's, this place has fallen into ruin and/or burnt down to the ground no less than six times. You would think that it would be the perfect place for a dark and moody goth rock band to play. You would be wrong, because the Great Salt Air is a pit. When I got there, they couldn't even handle a debit card. Maybe I just don't go to enough shows and all of you on the concert circuits are screaming, "Well YEAH you have to pay cash at a show!" But to that, I riposte, "Get moving you luddite bastards, the future isn't going to come to you and your abacus." So after driving twenty miles to find cash that these people would understand, I got inside the place. What a hole. A big featureless concrete slab, with a rudimentary balcony you have to pay five bucks to get onto, and then when you do, you find that only the first row can see, and the rest of you have to rustle around like kittens to get a view. Terrible, terrible venue. I don't hardly remember what the band played or what they did, this place sucked so hard. The show was only an hour long, and I don't blame 'em... I wouldna stayed on that stage any longer than that myself.
What a gyp.

Monday, October 23, 2006

When Recycling Goes Horribly Horribly Wrong

On the way back from Yaohan, and from the "I Swear I Actually Saw This" Files:

Happy Action Nice Time At Yaohan

Vancouver again. This time, we hooked up with another flight crew and headed into a place called Japan Town in search of a sushi joint of which the opposing captain knew. "Ten minutes away," she said. Four hours later, we got there. The 'sushi joint' in question turned out to be a massive shopping mall called Yaohan (seen here, not actual size).

Grabbed some wrapped sushi trays at a store inside. Have no idea what the name of the store was because it was in kanji, but they sold everything there that has ever been made in Japan. Mops, slippers, geisha dolls, food, very bad lamps. The snack aisle bristled with boxes that sported happy faces instead of pictures of the actual food and slogans like GOOD TASTE FOOD EAT DAY! I took a chance on a bottle of something called Asahi:

I beg you... never ever take this chance. You may die.

Asahi tastes like peat-filtered gasoline. The pilots all took a swig, because no pilot wants to admit a flight attendant drank something they wouldn't drink. And so now it's official: four out of four pilots recommend Asahi as a painful method of suicide. I should have known, really... look what it was next to on the shelf:

Friday, October 20, 2006

Those Foul-Mouthed Mormons

So you probably know that Mormons don't drink or smoke. They don't cuss either (unless they have strayed from the path, at which time they are called Jack Mormons, a designation that amuses me no end). I discovered the 'no cussing' thing while I got to know Steve. One thing he did say though, during times of amazement, was, "Oh my heck!" I would laugh every time he said that, because it's such a boneless chicken thing to say. It's like interrupting someone to announce you have nothing to say. And so when I heard someone else say it here just recently, I began to think that maybe it wasn't something that Steve had coined himself... that maybe this thing was global.
This morning, on the freeway, I got proof.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Steve Is Now Among Us

Your friend and mine, Steve, graduated today. I attended in full flight attendant regalia, and it was great to see him. When we were in school together, he was kinda tense, and I just assumed that was the way he was. Very preoccupied about studying, very nervous about going home. But this time, he was laid back and self assured... I imagine because a) he'd done it all before, and b) this time, he knew for certain that this is where he was meant to be. I don't take a whole lot of security from the higher meaning of things, but some folks do, and man could you see it on him. He was living the dream, see.
Got to meet his wife, about whom he'd said so much during training. She was as proud as a spouse could be (they're 'sealed' rather than married, because they're Mormons... betcha didn't know that), and the last time I saw them, they were headed home on the same flight. Ah, romance.
And oh yeah, he's gonna be domiciled right here in his homeland. So now it'll be the Unholy Six.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Flight Of The Internationals!

OK, this was one of those flights.
It was on the Lunchbox. I was already having what I call a Bad Physics Day. You've had them. where you throw something into the trash can and it bounces back out even though you can clearly see that there was nothing there to deflect it. You just can't prove to someone else that there was nothing there to deflect it is what, and the conspiracy of it, along with the insane concentration of such events, is what makes a B.P.D. I had already kicked myself in the head during my morning Arizona Boot Check (where you rack your shoe on the ground so that all the scorpions fall out), dumped all my Plane Cheesies out of the serving basket, and put hot coffee on myself during turbulence (another B.P.D. qualifying event: there is a button about the size of a nickel that makes the coffee come out of the spigot, and it's guarded by a plastic rim of imposing size... so how I pressed the inside part of that thing when I was tossed scarecrowlike against it is beyond me).
So... the rules say that the people sitting in the exit row must speak English. When I briefed them, they nodded, and something stuck in my craw about it, and I pressed them. "Don't speak English!" they cried in a thick German accent. "Deutch!" they said. So I moved them, and it took a little time because I couldn't explain why I was moving them. I said danka a few times, and they said it back while they moved. A lady in another seat said, "Excuse me, I think those people there speak German," and I filed away the location of the folk she was pointing at. Then during flight, I decided to try to explain why I moved the people, so that they wouldn't think I did it just to be a jerk. I found the people the lady had pointed at, and asked, "Do you speak German?" They nodded. Then when I launched into what I wanted them to interpret, they cried, "Don't speak English!" in a thick German accent. So, acknowledging that the lady had been indeed correct about them speaking German, but that they were going to be of no use to me, I nodded and said danka a few times. Then a guy one seat away said, in a thick New York accent, "Dude, they're speaking Dutch."
So I felt stupid for the rest of the flight. New York Boy was right there to roll his eyes at me every time I started to feel smarter, and the lady who'd pointed out the 'interpreters' in the first place kept glaring at me as if it was my fault her idea hadn't gone anywhere. Yup, sometimes things go well, and sometimes they do the other thing.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

New Feature

I have, of late, become obsessed with the number of states I've been to. I am determined to get to all fifty. And so, to mark my progress, I have installed the Where The Hell I've Been Map, up there at the top right of the page. This is a real-time way for you and me to chart my own personal Manifest Destiny. I have actually been in more states than shown, but in order to assure that I've actually gotten out and seen the place, I've instituted the rule that I must actually lose consciousness in the state for it to count. So overnights and barfights are both legal.
Stay tuned...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Don't Go This Way

From the "I Know What It Is, But What The Hell Is It?" Files comes this thing:

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Flying Lunchbox

lit·er·al·ly /'li-t&-r&-lE, 'li-tr&-lE, 'li-t&r-lE/ (adverb)
1 a: according with the letter of the scriptures b: adhering to fact or to the ordinary construction or primary meaning of a term or expression c: free from exaggeration or embellishment d: characterized by a concern mainly with facts
2: of, relating to, or expressed in letters
3: reproduced word for word : exact, verbatim

I'm planning to use the word literally several times in this entry, so I wanted to get the definition out of the way so you'd know I'm not whistlin' Dixie.
You'll recall I had an on-the-job training phase a few weeks go, something they call the Initial Operating Experience, or IOE. That first one was on the CRJ, or Canadair Regional Jet. It's a nice plane... a 50 seater, spacious, modern, quiet. As of this morning, I have completed IOE on another aircraft, and it's something entirely different.

The Embraer EMB Brasilia 120 is a tiny turboprop airplane which seats 30, and is inside literally smaller than a school bus. One of the criteria they screened us for at that initial interview way back in July was a height of 5'8'' or less, and that's because the cabin clearance is exactly that. Now it's a matter of public record, and also a complete fact, that I am 5'8''... my passport says so. But lets say, completely for the sake of argument, that I was actually an inch taller than that, and had scrunched down a little when they measured us at the interview. That would then make my head brush the ceiling. But I would never do anything like that, so that's not a concern.

At a premium also is horizontal space. The flight deck door is actually in the aisle at the first row of seats. There is literally nowhere to stand when greeting passengers. You can either stand inside the cockpit with your head kinked under the door jamb, or press yourself into into seat 1B with your head bent against the first overhead bin. The passengers mash you into whatever you're already mashed against, because it's an industry-wide policy that if you're a weightlifter, football player, or wrestler, they book you on the EMB. And when you close the cabin door, it fits so tightly into the plane that your right shoulder presses against it when you're in the jumpseat. The galley, which is in the back, is so miniscule that you're pressed against the lavatory door while preparing drinks. And ironically, this is the only aircraft we fly with a lav door that folds inward, so when the plane hits turbulence, you fall in. It is 'fat guy in a little coat' on aircraft scale.
And this thing is loud. The turboprops look small next to jet engines, but in flight they each sound like nine demons howling, "BAAAAAAAAAAAA!" the whole time. And each loose cabin panel (and no, there are officially none of those) chimes in with its own distinctive teeth-shattering buzz. If you don't wear hearing protection while in the jumpseat, you can literally suffer hearing loss.
That said, this plane is fun. It sideslips; the balance is arranged so that it seems to turn from the middle, which makes for a more fun ride the further back you sit. Aside from the impromptu bathroom visits, even trying to stand upright anywhere past row 6 is a day at AstroWorld. Instead of a long and blasting takeoff like in a heavier jet, this thing hops into the air after about seventeen feet. You almost expect to see Thomas The Tank Engine's face on the thing after you deplane.
So far, I like it. Of course, in six months when I need a hearing aid and a spine brace, that could be different. Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


... is yellow here. It's brown back home. Never seen this.

Unfolding Tendrils

Today was the second reserve day I got through without being called up, and so I have used it to find things. Yesterday I drove south and east, and today I went west and north. Found a multiple-screen drive-in theater, a Wal-Mart, and a crapload of taco joints. While doing laundry, I found an arcade that didn't have quarters. Also found a laundromat that featured the dumbest person I have met here:

ME: Hi, can I get a couple dollars in quarters from you?
DUMB: Trade?
ME: Uh... what?
DUMB: What're you trading?
ME: I'm not at all sure what the words you're saying mean.
DUMB: You have to trade me something. I mean, nickels, quarters, dollars?

I think she really thought I was just asking her to give me quarters. What amuses me there is that people seem to have asked her that so many times that she came up with the clever macro of, "Trade?" to avoid having to explain using many words that you can't get stuff for free at this laundromat, Mister.
Haven't got internet installed at the apartment yet, and so here I sit in a hotel parking lot, pirating their wireless network. Hope you all enjoy this particular entry, because it could send me to jail.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Monsters From Beyond Space!

Second night in the new pad. Woke to the sounds of really crappy Tejano rap from the apartment next door, and something that sounded like, "BabababababBABABABABA!" from just outside. Intrigued, I blearily opened the door, and this is what I saw:

This place just keeps getting wierder and wierder.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The New Digs

This is the place. Second floor there. When we got in there, we saw that the dishwasher had standing water in it, and the hot water heater wasn't so much with the heating. I had to take a cold shower (it was for work; otherwise I would have gone without), and probably offended the new neighbors with a steady onslaught of swear words throughout.

I sleep here. It's an queen-size air mattress, which seems to be the industry standard for flight attendants, because we're in hotels more than our homes, and these things are cheaper. But then, by the time I bought the sheets, a bed might have been cheaper. My roommate bought the same bed, and both wouldn't fit in the bedroom, so I sleep in the living room. She gets access to the bathroom, but I get the kitchen, ha ha.

This is what I see when I go out the door and look south. I think it's a mountain. Kinda makes up for whatever may be lacking indoors, huh?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Playing With Doors

Now, the proper procedure for making an airplane go is this: the flight attendant closes the main cabin door, turns to the pilots, makes a thumbs-up, says, "Ready for taxi," and then closes the cockpit door (I thought that was very funny when I learned that... the concept of me, having been in the industry for two months, telling a seasoned pilot that he's ready to taxi). The way I did it one day a week ago was: not close the main cabin door, turn to the pilots, make a thumbs-up, say, "Ready for taxi," and then close the cockpit door. The co-pilot kept trying to open the cockpit door back up to tell me to close the cabin door, and I kept pushing it back closed, thinking why won't this door close? I felt a little dumb when I figured out what was happening. And on certain models of cabin doors, there's a plunger that you pull to seal the plane, and once I forgot to do that and gave 'em the thumbs-up. Pilot said, "Nope, check your door." I quickly discovered what I'd missed and pulled the plunger, which promptly pressurized every ear on board. "Aaaaa," everyone says.
"THAT did it," says the co-pilot, one finger in his ear.
Today, my phone rang while I was closing the door. What you have to know about my phone is that I've set the ringer to some wierd sci-fi sound so that I know my phone from all of yours. Sounds like a high pitched whistle. Also, it apparently sounds like a pressure seal leak, which is where air gets sucked out of a break in the door seal and makes all the passengers pass out and die... that's why the captain turned around, said, "Hey, you hear that?" and almost depressurized the plane.
I don't think there's another way to mess up closing a door, but if there is, I feel confident I'll find it.


I am now officially older. Also, I have just barely fulfilled my self-made prophecy of having a place to hang my head before my birthday. I haven't seen it since I signed the lease, but that wasn't in the fine print of the prophecy. Again, more info about the place when I get to actually be in it.

Monday, October 02, 2006

It's All In The Name

Some airlines have peanuts. Some have crackers. Some have chips. When they told us what we had, I really thought they were kidding.

They taste wierd. You have to look around for the taste, and once you find it, it doesn't taste like anything. That said, I am now an addict.

The Flight From Baby Hell

Ok, now today it was hard to stay civil.
Seven, count 'em, seven babies on my plane. Unnerving, but withstandable. But the people in charge of the passenger seating scheme were new or something, and so didn't seat any of the families together. That's right, mom in 2B and the eleven-month-old in 11A. And that's ok, except when it slowly dawns on you (as it did me) that this mushroom cloud is going to go down in the center aisle, eight rows away from where you can do anything about it. It was like playing Tetris with people. And there was a poodle on the flight, did I mention that? Oddly, it was the most well-behaved organism on the aircraft.
One kid with Fraggle-like sprigs of hair was cute enough until it blew a smoking hole in its diaper, and then mom needed a place to change it. As it so happens, there is an almost-baby-sized fold out table in the galley. That's right... nuclear infant ass right next to the consumables. Remember that next time you get a drink on a plane...