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The following was written at about 3am:

I’m completely fried, sitting in some terminal in JFK airport waiting an hour until my terminal opens. It’s like that painting Nighthawks but without the dinner. Maybe there’s a bar. That sound’s like a good idea. Yesterday after going to the MoMA I slept for 14 hours, quite soundly, despite the new roommate who was apparently quite flatulent. Arsen was about to slap him apparently. When I got my act together today Arsen and I wandered around town until 2:30 doing various chores and discussing the American government. Then I lined up for an hour to get tickets to another Broadway show, the Pirate Queen. Another nap and then off to the show (I was not that impressed) and then bag packing, losing stuff, finding stuff, checking out of that cursed hostel and then taxi here. How I have furnished you with a very boring, overly detailed itinerary of my day.

So there you go, New York. Fun for the first few days, but increasingly brutal and depressing for the lone traveller as days drag on and the city gives you a glance at its dark side. The list of ‘must dos’ I did not do is roughly expressed here:
Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Station, Empire State Building, 4 Freedoms Plaza.
Hang on, that last one’s not real.

And if you’ll indulge some airy fairy prose, that’s kind of the point: it turns out New York is real. I mean that in two senses. The first is that with so much mythology woven around it, a boy from the far corners of the planet could be almost forgiven for thinking NYC is a fantasy world. Spiderman lives there, Seinfeld happens there (and I’m pissed off that my spell checker recognises that name), the Nanny, King Kong, Law & Order etc etc etc. The second sense is that while we have all seen footage from NYC it is usually on American film stock and thus slightly grainy and maybe at a low frame rate, which somehow makes it look different. Obvious I know, but it ain’t like that when you are there.

Bah, I feel like a packrat jealously guarding my luggage from potential thieves. I need sleep. Getting paranoid. More from London. Let’s see if I get held up at Heathrow. After all the administrative drama since this trip began, it is absolutely bound to happen.

The following was written at about 9.30am:

*Maniacal laugh* oh my goodness, the curse on this trip continues to reek havoc. Just to recap the dramas so far:
*Couldn’t get visa for Italy before leaving Melbourne due to 90 day rule
*Couldn’t get Italian visa in Winnipeg so sent passport to Toronto
*Couldn’t get visa from Toronto, so started calling Melbourne
*Couldn’t get a hold of Melbourne so posted documents to Melbourne out of desperation
*Got email from Melbourne 5 hours after posting documents saying they can’t process visa without me in Melbourne
*Weeks of begging and pleading fall on deaf ears in Melbourne
*Instructions to return documents at cost to U Manitoba ignored, and documents passed to Mother.
*Mother is told documents will reach me in 5 business days, it takes 3 weeks
*I have to put flights to NYC, London and Venice back by 3 days. This is done in Winnipeg.

Let’s pick up the story here, bearing in mind that today I’m supposed to fly JFK to Washington-Dulles and then from there to Heathrow. At 4am this morning, I got into the United Airlines terminal at JFK. At about 5am I hand a gentleman at check-in my tickets. The gentleman looks at the computer and frowns. This is a universal sign that things are about to go wrong. While the Air Canada lady in Winnipeg put the flights back 3 days Winnipeg to Toronto, Toronto to NY, she only put stickers on the ones from NYC to Washington, Washington to Heathrow and then all flights to Venice indicating the change of date but did not update the computer records. Thus, they start to fix these problems over the telephone, but in the meantime put my bags on the flight. After my bags go bye-bye, they find more problems with my tickets; non-existent flights, no airport taxes charged in the US, things such as this.

They decide I won’t get my 6am flight, but there’s another one from La Guardia at 7am. “I promise you sir, you will get that flight, I can see the look on your face. There is no traffic at this time of morning.” At 6.40am the tickets get sorted out. I run to the taxi stand. I have great difficulty finding a taxi that will take Visa and I have no more hard US currency and next to nothing accessible in my debit account.

I rush through security at 7.15am, almost in tears, dropping my boarding pass on the way. It matters not, the flight is gone.

The following is written at 10am the following day:

It seems my minor catastrophe came in the middle of a larger catastrophe. Flights all over the country were being delayed and the gate staff at the airline were rather stressed. Eventually the announcement was made that all flights after 1pm were cancelled and all others until then delayed due to rain and hail and snow and fire and brimstone.

This is when something beautiful happened.

In a packed terminal, people started talking and joking with complete strangers. Parents began playing with children. Though not everyone was happy, the terminal was full of laughter.

Eventually I got new boarding passes to the 10am to Washington-Dulles, but time of departure was uncertain. So I waited. And waited. And waited. I got to chatting with a lady who lives in DC, Erin, and she was kind enough to buy me lunch. Eventually it was announced that the airport (and it turned out all others in the area) were being closed. Erin had decided to take this lost drifter under her wing, and after we tried to hire cars, looked into trains and explored all other options, we ended up taking the last course left: crowded bus from La Guardia to Port Authority Station in NYC; Greyhound from NYC to Washington, which took 7 hours but allowed for some sleep and swapping travel stories and seeing photos; metro across DC and into Virginia (I think. So many states in a short time) and then a friend of Erin’s was good enough to drop me off at a hotel, where I am now, for a decent sleep. By now it was 1am. 24 hours to get from NYC to DC, and I’m much poorer, I don’t know where my bags are, and if I can get a flight to Heathrow in time for Saint Paddy’s. But still, it could be far worse.

So, Erin, if you are reading this, THANKYOU. I can imagine myself still lost somewhere working out how to get to anywhere. You have a friend in Australia, if ever you are in need.

Time to move out for another day of adventure.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
theonlyh
Mar. 18th, 2007 04:47 am (UTC)
Jebus Pauly, even I am moved to sympathy on reading this.
(Anonymous)
Mar. 18th, 2007 10:18 am (UTC)
Yeah, it was of that magnetude of badness
docmatrix
Mar. 19th, 2007 01:41 am (UTC)
On the development of character...
Wow dude, sounds like a hell of series of events to have endured, but looks like you pulled through extremely well! It's these sorts of trials that really uncover the stuff of which you're made.

Give it a few days, whilst you might not be 'laughing' at the events that transpired, it still gives you one hell of a story to tell!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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