I’ve spent a great deal of 2004 either on the road or preparing to be on the road. That is why my postings have been a bit scarce these last six months. I hope to be a bit more visible the next few days. This trip is not as business intensive as most have been. Yes, I am transacting and meeting with people, but for one day I will be an on the scene reporter for one of the most important historical events since Kittyhawk.
I arrived in Redondo Beach yesterday afternoon after two days of travel. My luggage finally caught up with me this morning: socks will be buried shortly. It was a very, very long journey.
Due to severe financial constraints I cut corners on this trip every which way. I left my flat in Belfast on Thursday afternoon, dragging a luggage trolley behind me. It was great fun getting the luggage onto a bus heading into the City Centre. After a brief stop at the bank where I turned my meager balance into dollars, I pulled the luggage through town and along the Laganside… where I promptly took the wrong side street shortcut to the train station. So… train to Dublin Connolly, and then a Dublin bus with an even narrower aisle.
My overnight stop in Dublin was at the house of a close friend and a meal cooked by her guitarist Graham Dunne. He cooks as well as he plays and that is saying something! Another trad musician was visiting and so we drank wine and talked until at least 1am… and I had to be up at 5am. Niamh Parsons, kind and wonderful soul that she is, got up and drove me to the airport at that ungodly hour.
The next leg was from Dublin to Paris. No, I am not kidding. The cheapest flight I could get on short notice was an Air France flight. I had a very tight window in Charles De Gaulle (CDG) Airport to find my gate for the international flight, but this went smoothly. A literal walk on.
CDG is big. We took so long from landing to parking I thought the pilot was taxiing us directly into the Paris City Centre. The airport is also very unfinished. Airplanes stop at places where there are probably going to be terminals some day. For now, you get a lift on a bus. (Advice: hang on for dear life.)
The food on the Paris to LA flight was good. I expected no less from Air France and they lived up to my expectations in spades. I managed to keep myself busy on this long flight over Greenland, Hudson Bay and down the West Coast. I brought a lot of reading material of the sort you would expect of someone who blogs. A case document on the Kennewick Man case; a Physics Today article on Hafnium explosives; a report to Congress on the state of China’s defense… things like that. It kept me busy except when it helped me to nap…
I was not feeling all that bad when I deplaned in LAX. Good thing too. First came the INS. Not really a problem… but the form for Customs has lines which must be filled in telling them where you are staying. However I did not have Rand Simberg’s street address (I did not think they would accept his URL). Every time I have been to Rand’s house he has picked me up. I never needed to know the address and had not thought of bringing it. The guy at Immigration insisted that something must be written on the still blank line… not because he wanted it but because Customs would send me back to him. Finally, in exasperation (and he didn’t want to wait while I tracked Rand down on mobile) he suggested I was actually staying at a nearby hotel. I filled that in on the offending line and voila, problem solved. He told me he is getting out after many years with INS because he is fed up with the way things are going.
Then the wait for luggage… except mine never arrived. My name was listed along with perhaps a dozen other people on a clipboard held by a very helpful lady agent on duty.
Even the lady in front of the customs desk was nice when I told her why I had no luggage.
An hour later I had as good a picture of the situation as I was likely to get. The connection was so tight they could not get the luggage across in time, so it would come over on the next flight… in late evening. I was given a free courtesy kit with a t-shirt, shampoo, razor and such so I could at least freshen up.
So I only had my carry-on shoulder bag with the laptop, camera and papers. Heavy enough but not like hauling luggage. I lucked out then: Rand was home rather than off at his aerospace customer’s facility. We agreed to meet just outside the airport, so I had one final bus ride to endure. I got packed into the parking lot bus so tightly with a bunch of end of shift TSA employees I had to stand on the steps and hold on for dear life to whatever I could find. I got off at the parking lot, rang Rand to let him know and walked to the street.
It was good to see Rand pull up instants later.