Here's footage of that. It's not all that great a video, editing a bunch of things together, but it's still a fun-enough idea to see. The song comes along about 40-seconds in.
There was a bit of attention given to a clever promotion by the Royal Caribbean cruise line where they hired Bonnie Tyler to sing her big hit, "Total Eclipse of the Heart" (written by Jim Steinman) today -- during the total eclipse, of course -- aboard one of their ships.
Here's footage of that. It's not all that great a video, editing a bunch of things together, but it's still a fun-enough idea to see. The song comes along about 40-seconds in.
As readers of these pages know, I love train movies. What may not be as obvious, though perhaps could be extrapolated, is that i love traveling on trains.
I haven't traveled on trains a great deal since moving to Los Angeles, though I did regularly in Chicago where the Chicago & Northwestern line was a great commute between the northern suburbs and the city, with wonderful double-decker trains. (I only say "was" because the line, which still exists, is now part of the Metra system.)
I did take the train one year from Los Angeles to Chicago -- stopping on the way for a night in Flagstaff, Arizona, to see the Grand Canyon, and then picking up the train coming through the next day. I've had other long train trips, but that's probably the longest, at 2,000 miles.
(On my Los Angeles to Chicago trip, I was maybe 15 years or so out of grad school. I decided to get a basic, reserved coach seat, rather than a roomette which was much more expensive. It wasn't bad since train coach seats are hugely more comfortable than airplane seats -- much wider, a lot more leg room and greater reclining -- and it was fine for the trip, though it's still not ideal for really long journeys, as L.A.-Chicago obviously was. Still, I'm incredibly happy I traveled that way on that particular trip. For a very specific reason. For the first leg of my journey, the reserved seat next to me was empty, and I was quite pleased about that. I knew my luck wouldn't hold out all the way to Chicago, of course, and kept wondering when it would eventually be filled. At various stops, passengers of all ages and sizes and temperaments got on, but still no one had booked the seat to be my companion. And then, in Albuquerque, someone did finally take it. And if this was a movie, you wouldn't believe it because she was an absolutely beautiful young German girl, who looked sort of like the beautiful German Olympic figure skating Gold medalist, Katarina Witt -- only prettier. (Honest.) In fact, first name was Katarine. (And yes, I still remember her last name, but there's no need to include it) And even better than that, which is saying a lot since after all she would be my traveling companion for the next 1,500 miles to Chicago, is that she was working as a summer au pair for a family in San Diego. And we got along so well, that we exchanged phone numbers for when we both got back to the West Coast. Indeed, we did get together -- she came up to Los Angeles -- and spent a nice day. Alas, nothing really came of it all, but it certainly made the case for loving train travel all the greater...)
Anyway, back to the point of this all. I was thinking of another L.A.-Chicago trip, or even one longer, fully cross-country. And in very early preparation, I checked out schedules and prices. And let me say quite clearly that while train travel is a joy, the Amtrak scheduling system online is mind-crushing insane.
I'm not gong to get into all the many ways it was lunatic, but will point to only two examples to stand in for it all.
The first is that I looked at the cost of a roomette from Los Angeles to Chicago. (I figure at this point, I've already had my lifetime fill of train-luck, and don't expect another Katarine Experience. Though there are always surprise meetings in the observation car or dining car -- o the joys of traveling on a train.) What I discovered is that prices oddly were wildly different without any seeming reason. While I fully expect some days to cost more than others, what surprised me is that Tuesdays usually cost more than Mondays -- and why only "usually"?? It seemed totally random. The main oddity, though, was something else. Here's the thing: $500 is a basic, one-way fare for the L.A. to Chicago trip with a roomette on a Tuesday. Fine. But I then checked the return trip for any Tuesday. And the price boggled me -- it was always $760 to go back! Even the same day. (Yet if you traveled back west on a Monday, it was only that basic $500 fare.) In other words, it is 50% more expensive to travel in a roomette from Chicago to Los Angeles on Tuesdays than the reverse direction. But the same on Mondays. (Regular coach seats also had major prices increases, though not to the same extent.) Other days of the week had their own oddities. It's just inexplicable. Most especially 50% more for the reverse route on the same day.
(By the way, yes, I know an airline will have different prices on the same day, depending on when a flight more-conveniently leaves, but -- a) there's only one direct Amtrak train trip each day in either direction, not multiple times to choose from, and b) I checked American Airlines, and their flights between Chicago and Los Angeles cost the exact same in either direction when leaving at the same time on the same day.)
But it's the second insanity that is far worse. And one I only discovered purely by accident when clicking on the wrong link.
Okay, here's the deal. Traveling back to L.A. from Chicago, there were two arrival options -- the main, downtown Union Station, and a branch in Westwood, near me on the Westside. What I discovered by mistake wasn't just bizarre but otherwordly. As I mentioned above, a roomette trip from Chicago to Los Angeles (to the Union Station) on a Monday cost $500. But if you select "Westwood" instead as your destination -- only about 15 miles to the west -- the price jumped to (are you ready?...) -- $850!!!!!
And as ghastly as that price leap is, it's even worse than that seems. That's because this extension is no longer traveling in the same roomette-seating on the train -- the train doesn't simply keep going west -- but rather...you get off the train and take a BUS for the next 15 miles.
I checked several dates to see if this was just a one-time glitch, but that was the case all the time, any day. So, in other words -- it was a $350 bus trip for 15 miles!! Maybe it's just me, but personally I think that's a bit steep...
To be clear, there has to be something very wrong with this listing, though for the life of me, I don't know what it is. Perhaps if one called Amtrak directly to book, you could get around this insanity when talking to a real human. The "Excuse me, but can you please double-check that, because it seems insane, doesn't it?" gambit. Though I don't know. After all, keep in mind that even just going from Chicago to Los Angeles is inexplicably 50% more expensive than the reverse route. So, perhaps lunacy simply rules on Amtrak.
Please know that I'm only giving two examples of the many outlandish oddities I came across trying to find routes and prices on Amtrak. I'm not nit-picking two totally-accidental peculiarities. There were quite a few others I found, and I didn't check all that many routes. So, the best I can figure is that Amtrak has a board filled with price numbers, spins it, and then tosses a dart -- and then they combine that with the results of another dart board spin for days of the week and also one listing destinations. The official scheduler then mix-and-matches everything and whatever bizarrely comes up, you have your ticket.
Then again, it was insane luck of the draw that got me sitting next to Katarine back then, so I can't completely complain...
This is a fun article about a tradition in the Japanese railway system known as "shisa kanko." That's the process of conductors in their white gloves pointing-and-calling when doing tasks, even the most basic and simple ones. It's based on the concept of "associating one’s tasks with physical movements and vocalizations" in order to present making mistakes by “raising the consciousness levels of workers.” In some ways, though it might seem the silliest of all, it's the simplest tasks where shisa kanko is most valuable, since those are the jobs that are easiest to take for granted, get bored doing, and let slip.
It's apparently very successful in Japan and has increased productivity and safety significantly. But it hasn't caught on elsewhere around the world because workers seem to think it's...well, really silly, and feel foolish doing it. Pointing and calling out their action, even the most ordinary ones.
The article points out that there's one notable exception -- of all place, New York City’s MTA subway system,. There, "conductors have used a modified point-only system since 1996 after then Chief Transportation Officer Nathaniel Ford was fascinated by the point-and-call system during a business trip to Japan. In the MTA’s case, conductors point to a fixed black-and-white “zebra board” to confirm a stopped train is correctly located along the platform."
And the thing is, the New York conductors adapted to it quite well, and in only two years, "incidents of incorrectly berthed subways fell 57 percent."
You can read the full article by Allan Richarz here, along with some more videos and graphics. It's definitely odd -- but oddly fun.
Back in Los Angeles now, and managed to evict the elves who were taking care of the homestead. They left the place is pretty good shape for them, meaning the furniture hasn't been destroyed and there's still food in the refrigerator.
If you travel by air just once a year, I can't recommend highly enough applying for TSA PreCheck. It costs around $85 for five years. That's a whopping 17 bucks a year. And given that for every you'll get to use it twice, that works out the $8.50 per flight. To not have to stand in a loooong line at the airport, but zip through is good enough, but then there's the added benefit that you can leave your shoes and belt on, and leave your jacket on and not have to take out your computer, is SO worth it.
You just fill out the application form here, and then set up an appointment. That's the only semi-inconvenient thing, since the locations may not be convenient for you. Usually there's an office at the local airport, as well as some others in the area. I chose not to go to LAX, and instead drop deep into the San Fernando Valley to where it seemed like I should have packed a bag lunch first. But the appointment itself took about eight minutes, and even though I showed up about a half-hour early they took me right away.
One caveat -- or suggestion. If you do any world traveling, consider applying for the Global Entry card. It costs a little bit more, $100 for the same five years, but it includes TSA PreCheck. The main benefit is that it lets you avoid the looooong lines when returning to the U.S. from overseas and go directly to the Global Entry kiosks. So it's only costing you $15 for that -- or three whole dollars a year. You can find out more here -- or read this article by travel expert Peter Greenberg who compares the two.
Usually when I head downtown into the city when I come to Chicago, I go to the Art Institute which tends to preclude me going to one of the restaurants I like. I tend to get to the museum in the late morning, and it's just too inconvenient to leave mid-visit for lunch and then return back afterwards to the rest of the paintings. This time, though, I decided to change my schedule a bit and took the L in to arrive around 11:15 so that I could go to The Berghoff for a very early lunch, and then go to the Art Institute after, which is only about two blocks away.
The Berghoff is a Chicago classic in every true sense of the word. It's been there on Adams Street for a long time. No, seriously long. For 119 years, since 1898.
It's a German restaurant, and you really feel a sense of heading back into time when you walk in, though there's nothing musty about the place. It's just Old World. They keep it as fresh as reasonable, although walking back in -- I haven't been there in decades -- was totally family. The only surface differences I noticed is that they now have women waitresses, and all the waiters were under the age of 60.
(Yes, it's empty here, but remember -- I said I got there a little after 11:15. The place was much more full by the time that I left...)
The Berghoff makes its own beer, so I got a couple of samplers of the Original and the dark. They also make their own bread, of give you a sort of "snifter" of pumpernickel, rye and some other. And I othered the bratwurst, which I love. It was all delicious.
Great to be back.
And then on to the Art Institute. It's quite an amazing place, as I've mentioned. Not just for the collection, which is remarkable, but how meticulously and thoughtfully it's all laid out.
When I was there last time, one of their famous paintings, American Gothic, was touring on loan. I was hoping it would be back by now, but I was told I was three days too early, that it wasn't due until June 11. However, when I got to the American Paintings of the early 1900s area...it was there! Huzzah.
But the real treat was that they have another famous American painting on loan right now, that I had no idea was there. It's owned by the Paris Museum, and rarely seen in the U.S. -- in fact, it hasn't been at the Art Institute in 60 days. But when I walked up the stairs to the American section, I saw a big sign for it.
I think there's a good chance you'll probably recognize it. (Please excuse the reflection.) --
In the little description for "Whistler's Mother" next to the painting, there's a a great quote from James MacNeil Whistler. It turns out that he acknowledged it was probably his best painting, not just his most famous, and he was pleased by it. The quote was something like. "When you're going to do a painting about your mummy, it's such a good thing when it's so nice."
All in all a good day.
And it's rare when the elves taking care of the homestead ever get jealous, but they did today. In large part, though, that's because they really love pumpernickel.
Today was Travel Day, and I Got into Chicago late this afternoon. Checked in with the elves back at the homestead, where they insisted all was well, but as long as it’s still standing I’m fine with that.
As I waited for my plane at LAX, I’m somewhat amazed at how many people there took seats clearly marked for “Disabled,” even though they weren’t. And it’s not like there weren’t any other seats available – which wouldn’t have excused it – but that plenty were open, and nearby. The thoughtlessness was palpable.
The cab ride to the airport was fine – there’s a small taxi company I came across a few years that I quite like, Sunshine Deluxe (and have written about in the past). They’re family run, have only a small fleet, but have been very efficient with nice cars and show up early. My one quibble is that they still have old credit card swipers which can’t read today’s credit cards, but require embossed numbers. It’s not a problem, but the card I use gives me double-points, and it doesn’t work with the old machines. Hopefully they’ll move to the new technology soon.
But one thing did bother me. I’ve usually gotten the wife of the group, Yolanda, as my driver, but she wasn’t available this morning. (The only time I haven’t, I got her husband Pedro.) The driver today was personable, got there early and did a good job – but at the end, he gave me his business card and said, “If you liked your ride, maybe you’ll give me a call,” What I realized is that because Sunshine Deluxe is small, they must occasionally hire out to preferred independent contractors when they’re overbooked. And this guy was trying to drum up business. I haven’t decided for sure, but I’m inclined to send Sunshine Deluxe a note when I get back. While it borders on “snitching,” I look at it differently. I really like Sunshine Deluxe and the people I’ve dealt with. They’re a very small business, working hard to build their clientele. And not only was this trying to steal business from people I like, but if he succeeds (and others like him) that can have an impact on Sunshine Deluxe and risk putting them out of business – which not only hurts them mostly, but me as well, who likes to take them. So, I’ll likely send a note. I don’t want to get the guy in trouble, but what he’s doing is wrong, and I also don’t want people I like to take a hit because his actions.
Anyway, I’m in Chicago now – Evanston actually, very near Northwestern University. I was planning to go into the city tomorrow, but with James Comey testifying, I might change my plans…
As far as I can tell -- and oddly, it's been a bit difficult to track down -- today is National Train Day. At least it is here at Elisberg Industries, and that's good enough as a starting point. You won't find it on any calendars, but National Train Day (Or as it's also known as around these parts, "Let's Make Chris Dunn's Head Explode Day") is nonetheless still one of the most joyous holidays of the year.
For our part here, we celebrate it by posting a list of the greatest train movies. These are films in which trains are absolutely central to the story. Where a train is the driving force of the tale, without which you can’t properly describe the plot.
(Think of it like the classic and beloved Santa Claus song, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." Santa Claus isn't actually in the song at all. He hasn't even shown up yet. In most ways, it's about "you" and what you should do -- or better not do. But even though there's not a hint of Santa Claus even appearing in the song, without Santa Claus...there's no song.)
This relates to the fun part of the day, when the inveterate Chris Dunn goes totally mental, unable each year to grasp the concept, trying annually to explain unsuccessfully why Bridge on the River Kwai is supposedly not a train movie, yet Throw Momma from the Train is. He's wrong on both counts, but it's still fun to watch.
Every year, he always spins out of control in disorderly circles trying to make his point, that Bridge on the River Kwai is not about trains. And as I say every year -- he's right, it’s not “about trains.” But then I never said it was – just that it was a “train movie.” And more to the point, specifically a great train movie. Not merely a film with a train in it, but one where a train is the driving force of the story, without which you can’t properly describe the plot. Where you can only tell the story of Bridge on the River Kwai by saying:
The train is coming – we have to finish the bridge before it gets here. The training is coming – we have to destroy the bridge before it gets here. The train is coming – it’s what drives Alec Guiness to madness. The train is coming, the training is coming. It’s the core foundation of what affects everything in the story. The train is coming.
By contrast, Throw Momma from the Train could just as easily be Throw Momma from the Funicular. Or you could probably even tell the story cutting the train sequence entirely and instead write in some other scene to bridge the plot points. No pun intended... For 98% of the movie, it's about something entirely separate from trains and has absolutely nothing to do with trains, other than have the word in the title. It certainly deserves consideration as a train movie -- though hardly an all-time great train movie -- but like some retired baseball players hoping to get in the Hall of Fame year after year even though their career statistics don't change, it just doesn't measure up against the competitions. Sometimes, some players do finally make it in the Hall after a dozen years on the ballot, as their statistics get more deeply-analyzed against the growing perspective of time...but Throw Momma from the Train, still just doesn't measure up.
The point isn't a list of movies that have trains in them, whether briefly or at length. It's about Great Train Movies.
I note here that Throw Momma from the Train has finally moved up a notch and is now on the Honorable Mention list, making it there last year -- in part because it does have the word "Train" in the title and a train sequence so, given the perspective of time, it does at least support that limited standard, and in part as a salve to Mr. Dunn, so that he would be able to get some rest rather than spend another completely feverish week.
We've also added a new movie to the list of Great Train Films, an interesting train movie in the full sense, Emperor of the North, about a hobo challenging a cruel railway detective for authority, as he tries to hide on a train trip during the Depression. And to give total credit where due, the film was suggested by...Mr. Christopher Dunn.
I should note, which I think is likely very obvious, though I haven't stated it before in these annual columns, I love train movies.
Around the World in 80 Days
Back to the Future 3
Bridge on the River Kwai
The Darjeeling Limited
Emperor of the North
The Great Locomotive Chase
The Great Train Robbery
The Lady Vanishes
Murder on the Orient Express
The Narrow Margin
North by Northwest
Night Train to Munich
Strangers on a Train
Von Ryan’s Express
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
The Greatest Show on Earth
At the Circus
Throw Momma from the Train
And a video, too, to watch.
You may know Rick Steves through his many travel books -- or perhaps from his long-running travel series on PBS. Well, even if not, I can't suggest highly-enough that your read this article from him and watch the video below. Or just watch the video -- though after doing so, you'll want to read his blog posting.
The short version is that for the past decade he's been housing otherwise-homeless women from the YWCA in an apartment complex he bought years ago and renovated with help from local government in Washington State and the Gates Foundation. And he's just donated it -- worth $4 million -- to the YWCA.
His blog piece explains why, eloquently and movingly, but simply. You can read it here
Or you watch this short news story where he talks about it.
At last I've returned.
The flight part of the journey back had its own twists and turns, beginning with the IFA group, that put on the event in Lisbon, thoughtfully providing busses to the airport. Oddly, the schedule had people arriving at the airport about 3-1/2 hours before their flights. (All the hotel personnel said you only needed two hours.) I suspect the extra time was not only based on the assumption that people would be unfamiliar with the facility, but also - and more to the point - IFA wanted to be absolutely sure that everybody got on their plane and not have to be held responsible for a screw-up if someone missed. I thought about taking a later bus than the one assigned for my group, but in the end I figured, "Oh, just go early. Even if it's less comfortable, you'll be there and settled."
As it turned out, the Lisbon Airport was indeed a bit convoluted to get through, and there were hiccups along the way. Yet even with that, I still got to my gate about 2 hours and 15 minutes early…
One thing that Americans are so fortune about, and I suspect many if not most take for granted is how so much of the world speaks English. It was pronounced in Lisbon, and it's not just a case of speaking the language with you, but the whole American culture is pronounced with businesses, billboards and signs in English. Not just American companies, but just in general. In large part, my guess is that this isn't just a matter of catering to Americans or only the culture, but since English is the international language, it opens the city (and other cities around the world) to people from everywhere.
That's why it was so surprising where the one place where you would have expected English to be so prominent would be at the airport, a focused location where travelers from around the world come and go - and oddly it was one of the least English-friendly places I came across. Further, there were no Traveler's Aid booths that I could see, and few airline booths had customer service reps out front.
Making all this more of a challenge was that, because we arrived at the airport so early, my flight wasn't even on the board yet, so I had no idea what gate to head towards. And I couldn't find the American Airlines booth. Finally, out of desperation, I went to the Moldavia Airlines desk to ask if they knew where the American booth was, since it was supposed to be next door, but that was deserted. In fact, it turned out that that was for American Airlines - but they don't show up until two hours (or three hours, someone else told me) before the first flight! Swell, that didn't do me a whole lot of good.
A tad bewildered, I decided to risk it and head towards the security gates. I had checked-in online the day before and had my QR Code all ready to scan and let me pass. Initially, I went to the wrong area, but they pointed me where to go. And I scanned - and was denied. The security guard checked the QR Code and its information and said that it wasn't what I needed, but had to go to American Airlines and get a booking pass. I asked what in the world was this QR Code I had been sent when I checked in - and to this moment I still have no explanation.
The problem was that I had to go to the American Airlines booth - and they had no one there. I was sent elsewhere, couldn't find it. And tracked down a rep for another airline (one I'd never heard of, but he was very considerate) who told me where to go for American. Unfortunately, it was the same booth with no one there.
At this point, I caught a break. I saw one of the journalists from our IFA group, Judie Stanford, who's founder and Editor-in-Chief of the excellent Gear Diary tech site, and a dynamo. I was comforted to know that although she is a major traveler, a member of an American Airline's Executive Platinum Club because she travels so much, even she was bewildered by the airport. But she pointed me in the direction where she had been able to find the American Airlines booth.
I headed off…and couldn't find it. But I thought she might have been directing me to the self-help kiosks (it turns out she wasn't, the location for American was more convoluted than I presumed), and so I tried there. Fortunately, there was an airport employee helping out…and it worked! O huzzah! I got my boarding pass and then headed off. O joy. And the good thing, too, is that even though the departure gate number still wasn't yet listed, it was on the boarding pass, so I now knew where to go, as well.
I went back to that security gate, my boarding pass worked, and I made it through! Scanner security was easy to find, and quick to get through. And then onto passport control - this could take a long time, I heard from others, but I made it through in three minutes (same as when I arrived). The airport isn't especially well-laid out - shocking, I know - through reasonably nice and easy (at this point!) to get to my gate, after a very long walk…which takes you directly through the Duty Free shopping area, there's no way to walk around it.
(Oddly, at the very end of this shopping area was a store for Tumi luggage. It's a good company, but a strange place to sell luggage. You have to figure that since you're only a short walk to your gate then, most people don't really have a great need for luggage.)
And so I made it to my gate. And the thing is, as I noted above, but now you know the details, even with all that confusion, bewilderment and mis-directions…I still got to the gate and sat down 2 hours and 15 minutes early!
But that ended up working out okay. Because about 15 minutes later, to both our surprises, Judie Stanford showed up. "I should have figured you were on the same flight, when you asked about American!" she said. So, I had someone to talk with to pass the time. And then when they started boarding, she - being an Executive Gold Club member - had a priority boarding pass and told me to join her. When we got to the pass-through gate, she just said, "He's with me," and we both boarded early.
Once again, o huzzah.
(I will note too that, as wildly-experienced a traveler as Judie is, even she said she got a bit bewildered by the Lisbon airport...)
The first leg of the flight heading out from Los Angeles to Philadelphia landed safely and reasonably on time, which is all I demand of a trip, though the bonuses were mediocre. Like the American flight over from L.A. to Philly, it was an old plane with no Entertainment Center, no music channels, and they even showed the same movie (!). The flight attendant said, "It's an old plane, so they figure why upgrade it since they'll eventually be getting a new plane for the route." (Actually, in comparison, this plane was better than the international one on the way over. That one, and the service, was like a budget airline in a comedy sketch, including when the flight attendant dropped the wrapped roll on the floor…and then put it back on the food tray! Yes, it was wrapped it was still touching the rest of the tray and would be picked up. Fortunately, I not only saw it, but it was for the seat next to me, so I told the fellow, and he carefully removed it off his tray.)
(There was a young girl in the seat next to me, and she was distraught upon discovering there was no Entertainment Center, no TV channels, no choice of movies and no music - and she hadn't recharged her phone beforehand because she assumed there would be, and that had all her games, books and music. And an 8-hour flight ahead. However, I had with me a bunch of chargers, including one meant to charge a laptop so it had a huge amount of power, which I offered to her. She was overjoyed.)
That left only going through customs in Philadelphia, changing terminals and making my way through the airport before my flight left. I made sure I had plenty of time, but was still concerned, especially if the flight was late. Well...it came in a half-hour early, and getting through the customs and the airport was so FAST that I had time to go to yet another terminal to see about catching an earlier flight back. I made it in time, but it was full. Some perspective: it usually takes 30-45 minutes to get through Customs in Los Angeles. Here, I was off the plane, got to Passport Control, went through Customs, made my way to the other terminal and then gate...in 23 minutes! (Getting through Customs only took eight minutes. I was joking with the Customs official about how the line was too short, and he was giving me options for making it longer...)
I ended up having about three hours at the Philadelphia airport. It doesn't have much charm or sense of design, but it seemed well-laid out, well-marked and pretty easy to get around which was very good. As I'd written early about the way over to Portugal, the American plane from L.A. to Philadelphia was excellent. And the one flying back from Philly to Los Angeles was a new, very nice plane, as well -- though with some issues I'll write about later. Ultimately, as I said what makes a flight a good one is if it lands safely and reasonably on time. This did both -- in fact, it got in 25 minutes early.
And so now I'm back. And having held off gong to bed until 11 PM and gotten up around 6:45 in the morning, I'm fairly close to caught up on the time...I hope.
Well, I made it back. Though not all the way, just yet.
Our flight got in to Philadelphia a half-hour early, and getting through Customs was SO bizarrely fast that I almost was able to get an earlier flight to Los Angeles. In fact, I made it to the gate for it, but they were full. So, I'm back at my normal gate, the flight leaves at 6:05 PM Philly time. (It's 3:45 now.) I get into L.A. at 9:15.
How fast was Customs? In Los Angeles, it generally takes me about 30-45 minutes to get through Customs. Here, I made it in…seven minutes! From getting off the airplane, making it to Customs, getting to the next terminal and arriving at my gate took a bizarre 23 minutes!
When all is said and done, it should be just about 21-1/2 hours of travel from leaving the hotel in Lisbon to opening the door back home. (The actual travel from Lisbon to Los Angeles is a more manageable 17 hours – slightly more manageable.) I was saved going through customs at the end because the transfer of planes was in Philadelphia, so that at least shortened things. I’d left enough time there for dealing with customs, getting to another terminal and then to the gate, though I was still wary about it, not knowing the airport (or if the plane would arrive late). As it happened, we seemed to have left Lisbon early which is weird, by about 15 minutes. Perhaps everyone was checked in – which seems unlikely – but there you have it. And then got into Philly even earlier.
I’ll have more to write about the adventurous flight tomorrow. I’m a bit beat at the moment, though I travel pretty well going west, so hopefully I’ll be back on Los Angeles time by then. If not, soon. I expect the elves taking care of the homestead to shout an exuberant "Whoopdee-do" when I get in...
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, and is a regular columnist for the Huffington Post and the Writers Guild of America. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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