Sunday, December 21, 2003
Obligatory Holiday Travel Post Dept.
NEW YORK CITY -- Bunsen is in the house, if by "house" you mean the Bethlehem where the rough awkwardly-referring-to-himself-in-the-third-person beast slouched off to be born less than three decades ago. Because my continuing efforts to convince Mayor Mike that Rockefeller Center would look so much more Christmassy relocated to the vicinity of Hollywood and Vine have thus far fallen on deaf ears, I'm forced to travel back east to my beloved homeland if I want to watch figuring skating tourists go fannypack-over-elbow into pileups of expensive photography equipment, black socks, and Teutonic swear words. And how I miss those silly motherfuckers who think the Rockefeller rink is a dandy place to show off their triple lutzes! There's no damage I can do with mere words that years of 5 a.m. figure skating lessons hasn't already wrought. Keep spinning, Dorothy, keep spinning. That Japanese couple clutching the siderail like they're barring the door of their Godzilla-attack shelter are very impressed.
The vast expanse of fallow America that lays between Los Angeles and New York presents a travel dilemma for the bicoastal elite. On the one hand, I normally wouldn't dream of taking any form of ground transportation cross-country for fear of actually coming into contact with fly-over country folk who might own pickup trucks for strictly utilitarian purposes. On the other hand, there are drawbacks to being aloft for five hours between the two cities on more terrorists' wishlists than a gift subscription to Boxcutter Martyrdom Monthly.
In the end, flying won out because a certain nameless airline offers a tiny satellite TV in every seat, and this setup is close enough to the 45-inch LCD I have on the wall opposite the bidet in my master bathroom. Despite serious misgivings about consenting to be a selfless hero in the event of a tragedy, I took a seat in the exit row; if I can't comfortably cross my legs while lining up my fifteen in-flight bottles of Absolut on the seat-back tray, I tend to hyperventilate and speak in tongues. In this sensitive time, speaking in anything other than straight-up New Yawk en route to JFK will land you on the wrong side of a Sky Marshal's tazer gun, and my neurologist says that if this happens again my ass is going to run like a beer tap at Oktoberfest and everything I eat is going to taste like pennies permanently, not just for the duration of the seizure.
So I washed down a Xanax with a miniature Swedish vodka bottle, expecting to wake in a cold climate no matter how many times the flight attendant shook me to demand that I place Voltaire, my stuffed in-flight anxiety-buffer bear, completely under the seat in front of me. But then I saw it on the postcard-sized screen on the seat in front of me: Mayor Mike and a bunch of suits at a podium, poker faces on, a graphic floating above their heads: "NYC: Terror Level Orange."
My thought immediately turned to my fellow travelers. Surely they'd understand that if the plane was overtaken and a water landing ensued, they would immediately abrogate my exit row Samaritan duties and even go so far as to applaud my foresight in selecting the seat that would best facilitate the saving of my own ham. Powered by my comrades' cheers of "Row, Bunsen, Row!", I would paddle the inflatable life raft to a terror-free zone like Rhode Island, whose twee status as "the biggest little state in the Union" renders it too fucking lame to ever be a target of fundamentalist destruction. Once absolutely sure I was safe, I'd alert the tiny local militia as to the plight of the downed plane, they'd get in their cute Rhode Island Department of Tourism "Biggest Little Rowboats in the Atlantic" and putter out to rescue the other passengers. I'd lay low just outside of Providence, operating an I-95 rest stop souvenir booth specializing in pewter spoons engraved with the Rhode Island "Biggest Little" motto until the heat died down. I'd modestly deflecting any hero talk with denials as I rang up customer after customer, No ma'am, you've got me mixed up with a hero. Then, infuriated by a tragic casting choice in an unauthorized NBC MOW (Giovanni Ribisi, couldn't you have played me a little less twitchy and fey?), I'd come out of hiding to sell my story to Miramax. Yeah, I know it's trite, but Harvey likes to spend for Oscar bait.
But then there was Mayor Mike smiling and telling us not to worry, there weren't any specific threats, so keep on shopping, be patient with the invasive security procedures etc etc. The Xanax kicked in, or maybe it was the vodka, and I dreamt of snuggling in a fetal position in a basket of California oranges under a brilliant, orange sun. I awoke with an embarrassing erection when jarred by a particularly rough landing (note to the male flight attendant who thought that quipping "Whooooa!" over the PA was an acceptable comic relief for the inept touch-down: it wasn't, and perhaps you'd like to butch up that career choice with something in a male nurse gig).
So, Mayor Mike, I'm not going to worry. I'm going to shop. I'm going to smile when a National Guardsman paws my goodies in Grand Central on my way to Times Square, where I'm going to stand in a crowd of a million of my closest friends, all of us trying to get the first drop of booze-saturated 2004 urine to hit the freezing asphalt at precisely the moment the ball rings in the New Year.