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Friday, November 06, 2015

Japan/Philippines Trip: Halloween, A Horror Story

I like to do things way in advance. My bags were packed in April. I facebooked my Japanese friends,... sent postcards too... announcing my arrival.. I started the couch-surfing ball rolling... Every day planned. First fly to Osaka, meet my friends: Yada, Yoshi, Junshu... sleep on the floor of one of them... Then to Kyoto for Lola's wedding... you'll hear it all. Everything worked out... in my head. Demo atama yoku-nai yo!

Friday... getting close to leaving time. There are only a few thing I have to do.. last minute...

  • buy a waterproof bag for my camera so I can take it into the onsen and take pictures of naked monkeys
  • return my recently made key to the locksmith for fine tuning-- it doesn't work
  • buy some extra luggage locks
  • give Jody the key for a friend who will take my apartment for a week (saving $200 of my lost $1200!)
  • maybe buy an extra pair of socks
  • double check that my flight does, in fact, leave from Kennedy Airport and not Newark or LaGuardia.

Saturday October 31

Halloween, the day before I leave for Korea, then Japan.

My first travel blog entry on my last trip started something like: I hate it when everything goes right. Nothing insures a crash and burn holiday like everything going right. I don't have to worry about that this time. EVERYTHING'S gone wrong.

First my subletter, taking the whole place while I'm gone, paying my rent... cancels.

The text message reads: BAD NEWS (I just love it when someone starts their text that way!) Sorry, Mykel. I've got to be away on business and will be out of New York the whole month of November. I just can't do it.

Great. There's a thousand bucks down the metaphorical drain. Oh yeah, before that I took an extra hundred dollars in cash out of the bank. Set it on my bag to take as last minute spending money. It disappeared. No one stole it. I didn't use it by accident. One day, it was there. The next, it was gone. Poof! Okay, that's $1100.

Then, Yoshi, my pal in Osaka, tells me he won't be in town until the day AFTER I arrive. That means I'll have to find a hotel... he's booked one for me, only $50... no problem. That's minus $1150 before I leave.

Mykel,” comes the facebook mail, “have you decided where you're going to stay the rest of your time in Osaka?”

I thought it was going to be with you,” I answer back.

Like I told you,” he says. “I'm living with my parents. I can't take you in.”

Hmmm, I guess he DID tell me that, but it didn't click.

Quickly, I book a hostel 4 beds to a room $30 a night. 12% deposit, cancellation fee if canceled more than 3 days in advance. I book it,,, better safe than sleeping on the street.

I leave tomorrow at noon. I try to make the leaving time easy on my body... I never leave before noon. For all the traveling I do, I'm a nervous flyer... and I HATE airports.... planes aren't so bad, but airports. Expensive, annoying, uncomfortable. Security enemas... Awful places.

Take this as a hint of things to come: In the airport, I stop for a beer. On the menu, a few beers are listed... all without prices. (Strangely, other things are priced.) 

I order a Goose Island and drink it while watching the Mets game. (A Mets game at noon? You'll find out.)

One beer later, it's the 7th inning, the Mets have the lead and I have to catch a plane:

Waiter! Check please.”

Certainly, Sir.”

The word Sir is as nice to my ears as BAD NEWS.

There the bill. Served with a flourish... one handed... TA DAAA!

Believe me... they DON'T want to hear my feedback.



It's early on the day of Halloween, already the streets are filled with little princesses, a superman or three... No Donald Trumps or Bernie Sanders.

Jody and I meet for brunch. She's already been a heroine in this story. Taking care of my mail while I'm gone. Passing on the key to my sub-letter... Giving me an old Eee PC... where I type this now... I should pay for the dinner.

At lunch, we talk about her problems. The biggest one is no doorbell. Her building has a system where you punch in a number at the door and it rings your telephone. Her visitors get a fax line. I shake my head in sympathy... what else can I do?

I give her my spare key to pass on to Gil, my 1 week sub-letter. I vow to send a postcard and buy a sleeveless shirt for her with “something Japanese” on it. Unlike me, Jody loves Halloween. She wants to go to Washington Square Park and see the kids. We part company. I go home and she, I guess, goes to Washington Square.

The next task on my checklist is to buy a waterproof baggie for my camera. Reo suggested it, especially since I want to take pictures at the monkey Onsen in Nagano. According to Reo, what I need is like a special ziplock bag that you put over the camera to protect it from water. There's a Best Buy® across the street, I'll just run over and get the first TODO checked off.

The camera department has moved upstairs. It's not so popular anymore... everyone thinks their cellphone is a camera. So upstairs I go.

Aside: Usually I hate chain stores and big companies in general. But Best Buy® has been so good to me in the past. Exchanging stuff without a receipt... spending a half hour setting up a friend's new SIM card... exchanging open printer ink because I made a mistake and bought the wrong kind and it won't work in my printer. I like 'em!

So I go to the firrst friendly face on a body with a BEST BUY shirt-- a handsome young man...haircut like Harrison Ford's circa the first STAR WARS. movie. I'm surely not going to call him SIR. He's walking away from me. I run to catch up.

Excuse me,” I say, resisting the urge to grab his elbow to slow him down . “Do you have waterproof camera bags... like a baggie for protecting a pocket camera?”

He stops... furrows his young brow... shakes his head. “I'm sorry,” he says, “we don't carry those kind of accessories. You know Adorama?”

I shake my head.

It's a camera store,” he says, “like B&H-- but closer to here. That's where you need to go.” [Aside: for those not from New York B&H is a famous midtown camera store run by Hassidic Jews. They stock everything. It's worth visiting for the experience..)

He walks over to a cash register and pushes a button. The register spits blank receipt tape. He rips off a piece and writes on the back.

16th Street
Between 5th & 6th Ave.

I thank him and hike the 16 blocks uptown. I'm at 16th Street and Fifth Ave. I turn right. Walk to Sixth Avenue. NO ADORAMA. I cross 16th Street and walk back to 5th Ave, figuring I missed it from the other side of the street. I figure wrong. NO ADORAMA.

I turn on 5th Ave... walk into the first store, a hoity toidy men's shop. A guy in a suit comes up to me,

May I help you sir?”

Yes,” I answer, “do you know where Adorama is?”

What's Adorama?” he asks, perhaps thinking it's a line of men's cologne.

A camera store,” I tell him. “It should be around the corner on 16th Street.”

He pulls out his smart phone. Punches in ADORAMA. zips a finger up the screen. Squints.

It's on 18th Street,” he says. “Between Fifth and Sixth.”

I thank him. Walk up Fifth Ave. to 18th St. Turn right. And there it is... with a big red and white awning. ADORAMA. And yes... it's just like B& H... run by Hassidic Jews... WHO CLOSE FOR SHABBOS!
I don't even bother kicking the gate.

From there it's to the locksmith... a friendly guy who looks very much like the singer of a punkrock band I knew in the 80s. Like a Best Buy® worker, he takes my old key and makes careful adjustments to the edges. An artiste... it takes him a good 20 minutes to perfect the key and hand it to me with a big smile.

That should do it,” he says.

Were you ever in a punkrock band?” I ask.

Is that a joke?” he asks.

I shrug, thank him and leave the store.

Then it's back downtown to K-Mart I know, but it's cheap and they have everything... except waterproof camera bags. I can take care of the luggage lock and the socks.

I leave K-mart and walk south toward Bleecker. I pass a British style punkrocker... huge mohawk... multi-colored... leather jacket with a giant BLACK FLAG patch on the back... studs up the wazoo. Boots... nearly knee-high... somewhere between army boots and WWF. I thought the East Village was over, but there are still... Oh yeah... it's Halloween! This guy is as punk as Jeb Bush.

The streets are filling up. Still no Donald Trumps or Bernie Sanders. Mostly jocks with Spock-ears... a few witches... Batman walking arm-in-arm with a cop.

Home. I check the newly adjusted key.

It doesn't work.

I let myself in with my regular key, hanging it up, careful to keep it separate from the reject.

Next: I check the plane leaving place. I don't want to go to the wrong airport tomorrow. I open the computer, go to gmail, search for DELTA, find the right email. The plane does in fact leave from Kennedy airport. It does not, however, leave at noon tomorrow. It' leaves at midnight tonight. I did NOT get Kennedy and LaGuardia mixed up. I DID confuse AM with PM.

Fuck! No sleep tonight. I've got to leave for the airport in a few hours and the place is a mess. The least I can do for Gil is wash the dishes. I run the water to heat up. Then... no dish-washing liquid... not even scummy handsoap I can USE as dish-washing liquid... nothing.

Okay, there's a Duane Reade across the street. No time to be economically correct, I gotta run.

So run I do. Out the door, down the elevator, out front door... then I realize... I don't have my key. The spare that was in my pocket is now with Jody. My own key is hanging on the rack next to the door. I have my cellphone, but Jody often doesn't answer hers. There's no way I can find her in the Halloween chaos. The technical term for my condition is FUCKED!
I call anyway. The phone answers. I speak. My voice repeats itself. I can't hear anything but ME.

HELLO, I shout into the phone.
HELLO. comes by voice back to me.

I hang up. Call again HELLO? HELLO? This time nothing... dead air.

I'm in a t-shirt, the night air is getting colder. I've got to leave for the airport in a few hours. I run to her place... maybe she'll be home. It's not a big chance... she likes Halloween... this is Halloween. But it's all I can do.

On the way, my phone vibrates: a text message. IT'S YOUR PHONE. I CAN HEAR YOU, YOU CAN'T HEAR ME.

I'M ON MY WAY OVER. I text back, SEE YOU IN 5.

I arrive at Jody's door and push in her phone code.... wait a minute... the doorbell doesn't work. I call her... wait a minute... my phone doesn't work.. I text her... I'm in.

Jody as the heroine, walks with me and collects the key after I get into my apartment. The other details of the day are boring. I wash the dishes. Make it to the airport early. Have the drink I started this blog with. Find out that the Mets lost in the 8th inning. (I'll have to bare a serious consequence for that!) And get in the Korean Air flight to Inchon... Delta codeshare.


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