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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Mykel's Caribbean Blog: Chapter One NY to Miami


by Mykel Board

THURS- DAY September 26, 2013 to
October 3, 2013

I hate it when things go right. It spooks me. Going right is the lull before the explosion, the tranquility before the hurricane, the beer before the hangover. Going right is the wiggling fish at the end of the hook.

In a few days I leave for my latest adventure. With a few minor exceptions (computer problems, printer out of ink, annoying eBay customer) things have gone WAY too smoothly.

Airline tickets? A snap. Punk rock contacts in Guyana? Check. Band, ready and waiting for me. Reply from Simon's brother in French Guiana? Ma maison est ta maison. Uh oh... this does not bode well.

I need an apartment sitter to take care of my New York place during my journey South. I'm not making money from the place, I just need enough to cover my home expenses while I'm away. But my place is tiny... and cramped with records and books to the ceiling. Not a dainty Architectural Digest New York home.

I post my need on Facebook. (Not THAT need! Everybody posts THAT need on Facebook.) And POW, up come two offers that cover a part of the time. Then POW TWO ! A message from an Australian friend whose former work-mate needs a NY place EXACTLY for the time I'll be away.

Another thing going right? Jesus! I don't know how much more I can take. When will it end?

Her name is Danielle. She's an actress/IT geek. Pretty, funny, smart. Judge from the picture:

We meet at the Peculier Pub. I'm with Marilyn, my best friend... neighbor... and girl who'll be responsible for my mail, and lived-in look if no one takes the apartment. I'm nervous. If she doesn't take the apartment, I'm gonna have to have friends take care of the mail, neighbors check in and walk around, make the place look lived in, worry about break-ins and who-knows-what. Awful. Plus, it'll cost me a ton to pay for a place I won't be in.

After the Peculier, I build the place up to her.

Every subway line in the city is within a block... or two... about... here,” I tell her. “And there's a supermarket just down the block. And the apartment has a TV. You can't get any channels, but I've got lots of DVDs and Video tapes.”

I bring her over to look at the place. Once inside the front door, we walk to the elevator. “Oh,” she says, “you have an elevator.”

YES! I think. She likes the elevator.

We enter the apartment. She does not grimace. Doesn't display a trace of repulsion. We take the tour.

And here's the bathroom. You push this level to flush the toilet. This curtain hides the shower. And I could make room in the closet for some clothes... and clean out two drawers of this dresser here. And this ladder goes up to the loft... you have your choice of sleeping locations. The loft is warmer. The couch has the TV...”

Well,” I finish up. “you can move in whenever you want to...”

I need a night to sleep on it before I make a decision,” she says. “I don't like to jump into things without thinking them over. I'll call or text you tomorrow.”

Uh oh. I know what that means. Not one question. No asking about where things are kept... how to take care of the garbage. Not a good sign.

Ok, she's pretty. She's clean. She's from a country that has a lot of space.... places for kangaroos and koalas. How's she gonna live in an apartment with a guest toothbrush hanging on the bathroom wall?

Shit, that's an extra $1600 I'll have to pay for these 7 weeks. MORE of my retirement flushed away. I'm down to about 3 months now. After that it'll be seppuku at the Gambian embassy. Nobody can live on Social Security... except maybe in Detroit.

Even if I live, with $1600 extra, this will be my last trip... unless somebody pays for the next one. I'll ask Sid. He's got that hustle down. Been all over... on THEIR dime! He's the one on the left. The one who ISN'T Charles.


AND my apartment will be empty and who knows what mayhem will take place while I'm gone.

It's about 18 hours before I get a text from Danielle. I'll take it.”

Marilyn and I text in code. You have to read it out loud to figure out what she said when I tell her.

Were duhs kin nut diss cry bum eye shock.

Mine neither:

Danielle and I meet again. She pays cash. I give her the low-down on how to use the VCD/DVD/Internet. I take a picture and put it on a note to my neighbors, and Allen, the landlord. I explain that I'll be away, and this is who will be minding the flat when I'm gone. I put one under the door of my neighbors. On one side, a young couple who just moved in. The other, Molly, who's been plagued by bedbugs: twice. I haven't heard much from her lately. (I've had the dogs in to sniff around. My apartment is officially declared BEDBUG FREE!)

At Columbia College I had a writing professor who thought everyone lived in their own world. Billions of mini-universes, each person living a different life, with different surroundings.

Somebody has to be the one to catch that bus,” he said. “Somebody is on it. They all didn't have the door closed in their face after they sprinted five blocks.”

The only explanation,” he continued, “must be that those people on the bus are like props. Your own world conspires against you. For each of them-- in their worlds-- YOU caught the bus, and THEY were left stranded outside.”

I write this at the gate at LaGuardia Airport. Who are these people whose gates are right next to security check-in? Who are these people whose bags are NOT inspected to see that the mosquito repellant really is less than three ounces? Who are they who run from security to the mensroom and DON'T have someone in the next stall who is loudly (aurally and nasally) relieving himself of the effluvia of last night's Mexican dinner? I guess for THEM, the answer is me. Is this enough to save me from the current plague of good luck. I don't think so.

FLASH BACK: It's 11:37, my flight leaves at 1:45. I like to be early.

I would have been earlier, but after going out for Drink Club Lite® last night, I came back, set my alarm for 9AM and flipped the switch. (NOTE: All the clocks in my apartment are 40 minutes fast. This lets me teleport anywhere in Manhattan. If I have to be someplace at 10, I leave at 10. I'm on time.) 9 AM, my time, gives me an hour to do last minute packing, take the garbage out, make a cup of coffee, make the bed before Danielle gets here. I could leave at 10 (my time) and be at the airport by 10:30 (real time). That'd give me about 3 hours to eat, find the flight, walk to the last gate in the furthest terminal, and still be on time.

Startled out of a dream I don't remember I wake up. Nothing serious, just age and beer calling me to get up and go. It's 6AM. Back to bed. Another dream... another wake up... another clock check: 9:50. Shit! The alarm was, of course, set for 9PM.

I'd planned to give myself an hour. Now I'll be half an hour later. No time for coffee.

POW! Dressed. POW! Packed. POW! Walk out into the hall to take the elevator downstairs. I hear Molly's door unlock.

You're going?” she asks.

Yep, two months,” I tell her. “You got the message.”

She nods, “It's just that I spoke with the bed bug guys and they want to do a one month check. I know you had the dogs in twice and they didn't find anything, but they might want to leave a trap inside just to double check.”

That's just what I need. I'm away, uncontactable, and they're gonna find a bedbug. My tenant will pack up and leave. Demand her money back or she'll tell the landlord. I'll have to fly back. Worse. I'll be thrown out of my apartment, and be out on the street when I return. I knew it... it was just too good.

Introduce yourself to Danielle,” I say. “I'll be able to take care of everything.”

She nods. I wave and get into the elevator. I get to the airport just after 11.

I already have my boarding pass (printed out at home on my computer with the ink just replenished), so I head for dreaded security, get through that, then look for the gate. I follow the signs... wrong. I'm turned around, but unlike real men, I ask directions.

See that right turn way over there,” says the attendant at another gate, pointing far into the distance.

I nod.

Turn right there,and follow the hall all the way down... to the end.”

What did I expect?

The airport stay is uneventful. I text Randy in Trinidad to tell him I'm leaving New York. And will be in touch. My cellphone won't work in Trinidad, so I have to do everything from the States. I ask him to please reply because I never know if the messages get through.

There is no reply.

But I'm going to see Sharon in Miami. And I'm sure she's there.

First call for seating on the plane. Who could've imagined? It's embarrassing. I get priority boarding... on my Amex gold card! Ouch. Ok, beat me up!!! But I got suckered into the card at the airport a couple years ago... and it does get me a free trip every year. (I'm not paying for this one to Miami.) Yeah, the card costs $125 a year, but it more than pays for itself. All those miles... on OTHER people's money. That's the joy of credit cards!

You doubt it? Read The Joy of Debt in Jennifer Blowdryer's excellent: Good Advice for Young Trendy People.

At Miami Airport: I get turned around a bit looking for Hertz. ($50 for a 2 day rental with GPS-- frequent renter miles) and have to hike through the airport... TWICE... to find the tram that goes to the car rental center. Still, it's too smooth. Too easy. Only twice? With my sense of direction... I should STILL be there.

I'm just looking for things I can say are wrong. Some ants in the honey. Some fly in the ice cube. Some sand in the KY. SOMETHING WRONG! Somehow it will prevent a disaster.
The rental at Hertz goes easy as a drunken floozy. Fuck!

Did I get to Sharon's place and find it was in a gated community with the gate closed... and nobody answering the intercom? YES! Did that stop me for more than 2 minutes before some ELSE opened the gate and I cruised in? Unfortunately not.

Sharon was a great Ms Hostess. And the dogs were as friendly as... dogs.

Did we go out to a famous dive restaurant and find that it was too crowded to park... and every table taken? YES. Did we find a place to park 2 seconds later in an abandoned driveway down the block? YES. Did we find a newly abandoned seat outside, in the middle of the local characters? Yes. Did we have a great time in the famous local dive? yes.
Jeezus! Will this horrible good luck never end? You bet it will... and maybe someone will post pictures of the raw pieces of my naked, tortured body at the end of this blog. But it's not happening yet. Right now it's TARKS

The “alligator tail” does taste like fried chicken... but you gotta believe 'em. And what a collection of local characters. Hoooey! Loud, drunk, funny. Beer floating from in to outside. Just the place you want on your first night in a foreign city. It's too good! No!! Please!! What horrors does this portend?

Everything is smooth as an apple skin... the worm! When am I gonna bite into the worm?

The bed in the guest room at Sharon's is mystical. My usual sleep schedule is 1-6 (my time), then up until 9, when I sleep again until 11:30.

That first night I sleep straight through. One to ten, a 20 minute late night kidney break... that's it. The morning after the perfect night, I awaken to freshly made coffee... ready for me in the kitchen. It's raining out, but this is Florida. Rain is normal. This, however, is not normal rain. It's torrents. Sheets and sheets. A rain of rain. A hurricane of rain. The water in the pool looks like it's struggling to get out. The streets are rivers. Sharon has to pick up the dogs at the groomers, bring 'em home, and then we'll go to breakfast. She'll brave the storm... what choice is there? I go with her, throw my coat over a puddle for the dogs to walk across. That's me, ever the man of macho chivalry.

We get the dogs. Get 'em home. Go out again. Wet. Wet. Wet.

In the car, we reach a busy intersection.

Look Mykel,” she tells me pointing straight ahead. “The traffic light is out.”

I look around. All the lights are out.

(more soon... you might also want to check the blog of Mykel's columns here.
WARNING: That blog is not PG. It might make you mad, or disgusted. The thin-skinned, politically correct, and easily sickened should probably stay away. You have been warned.)

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