Thursday, January 11, 2018

It had its up and down

Now it can be told.

I have been planning this trip to Israel for a few months now, but have been keeping it a secret to avoid the throngs of fans awaiting me at the airport when I land, and also because I was hoping to surprise my sister by showing up unexpected.

Hillel drove e to the airport and my nervous neuroses were in full swing. For a 1:15 flight, we arrived at 9:45 in the morning. Found y way inside to discover that there was already a sizable line (50-75 people) for security and check in. I had already checked in online so I wasn’t sure what to do vis-à-vis this line so I asked and was told that they were part of a group trip so should walk over to the “first class” line and check in there. So I wandered and when I got there, I asked what to do. I was told I was in the wrong line because I was not in business or first class. I explained that the nice man in the tie said I should come over. A few shouted words back and forth and I was told I was in the right place. Huzzah. Next up was the “keep waiting for 15 minutes because we are just getting set up, our Windows XP isn’t working, our printer isn’t printing and there are already 4 people ahead of you in this line and they really ARE first class passengers.”

I got to the front of the line and the El Al security person started asking the important questions about why I was going to Israel and if I packed all my own bags. I kept the nervous laughter to a minimum and Shira (if that is her real name) let me through. On to passport control where my passport was suitably controlled. I disrobed to the extent demanded by the law (and maybe a little more just to spice things up), put all my stuff into a series of bins and stepped into the magical machine that spins around and decides if I am a good person. Then, out to the burly guard who patted me down to see if I had any additional evil upon my person. My backpack had to go through the x-ray type machine twice but I aced it which shows that I am superior to a backpack in terms of goodnessitude. Win.

Then, on to the gate where I waited until Hudson News (no doubt a project of Hudson University) opened so I could buy a NY Times. I only read it for the crossword puzzle. Also, there was an excellent article about a recipe for a boiled and roasted whole head of cauliflower. Look it up and make it for me. 10:30 and all’s well. Time to wait at the gate. I got some reading done between the newspaper and a book and bought a water bottle to wash down the ibuprofen for the I-haven't-slept headache.

I saw people going to daven mincha. No one asked me. I felt left out again but tagged along. There was minor controversy over exactly when was the right time to daven 12.34 or 12.27 and how many seconds. What annoyed me was that my ticket was tagged group B so I was to board early but we were still davening while they started calling for boarding. The one chance I have had to be a “have” instead of a “have-not” and it was going to be destroyed. But I still got on early enough to snag overhead space with no fighting. The 787-9 (3 sets of 3 seats across – 2 aisles) is a nice plane but the seat material is thinner and flatter than in other planes and the angle of the seats puts the video screen too close to my face. First world problems.

A young woman on the Birthright trip which was the group I saw when I first arrived at the airport sat next to me. I looked at the seating chart recently and that seat was empty so I had gotten my hopes up. No luck, I guess. I was very happily not making conversation and was settled in when a friend of hers came over and asked if I would switch seats. He, too, had an aisle seat so I wouldn’t lose anything in the switch…he said… I graciously and stupidly said yes. It turned out he was on the aisle in row 59. The last row of the plane. Next to the bathroom – like RIGHT next to the bathroom. Amongst the Birthright masses. And this row actually had no overhead space allowed. Things just went south fast.

The 787 has no air blowing vent thing but the in-flight entertainment is substantial with many games, movies and TV shows, plus entire albums of good music, games, maps and dafyomi.

An observation: why do people bring so much stuff as carry on? Suits that they then ask about hanging up? Hats and mannequin heads with wigs? Three or four bags which they expect to find space for even if it means displacing someone else’s single bag?

The Birthright guy in the middle seat next to me asked me for the aisle seat. I said no. I refuse to feel bad about that. I said I needed it for my knees. He claimed the same thing. I said no. I refuse to feel bad about that. So he went on to set a new world record for man-spreading in his seat. He took more than both arm rests and then some. Then I started hearing a baby crying before we even taxied and man boy spreader has his knees pressed against mine which are well within the bounds of my seat.

Just as a side note and you might have heard me say this before: I really want an airplane bathroom, just with a toilet that isn’t quite as loud, but still as effective and violent as the one in the 787.

I watched Dark Tower (not especially good) and ate carbs (not especially bad) carbs and listened to half of Revolver. Take a guess: how many people use the bathroom. During a 10 hour flight? Approximately everyone. Twice. I even think some people who weren’t on the flight showed up to use the bathroom while I dozed, fitfully.

There was precious little room, in the row, in the seat, in the aisle. I started getting nauseated. Compared to other planes, there is no real space on the 787 9 to daven and the population, service staff included were not jazzed about it.

I carbed out at dinner ("meatballs" rice, hummus, some sort of bland cake) but it didn’t knocked me out yet. Troubling. The plan was to fall into a proper carb coma about 3 hours into the flight. That didn’t really happen. I dozed mostly in the very uncomfortable seat and the spreader made it worse. As did the “chop.” Chop is pilot jargon for turbulence or, as I call it, death air. There was a lot. Proximity to the bathroom has proven integral. Often. On the positive side, those calories don’t count.

I continued to be very tired but sleep eluded me.

I listened to the rest of the remastered Revolver. 14 songs none over 3 minutes but all musically gold. Then some of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

Breakfast. I had a bagel and cream cheese. I gave away the omelet to the Spreading-Evil next to me in the hopes that he would reward my largesse by staying within the limits of his own seat. Didn’t happen. I also skipped yogurt and the little balls of mozzarella with olives and grape tomatoes because they are clearly gross. If you don’t agree then you are wrong. I didn't think I was hungry but if I didn’t eaten how could I be sure there would be more turbulence? And we all love more vomit air (please don’t confuse this use of vomit-air with any references to a sickly Michael Jordan. So breakfast didn’t stay breakfast for too long.

The stewards are brusque or even downright rude, and the people are difficult but I somehow feel comfortable around that. It feels right. Gonna have coffee. OK, tea I guess as the coffee server walked right past me. Next up for a listen, selections from After the Gold Rush. And most of Rumors, all of Dark Side and a crossword puzzle

We landed only 5 minutes late and I, being in the last row, didn’t get up. I knew that almost 60 rows of people had to deplane before me so I didn’t rush. Eventually I got out – on to passports, customs and baggage claim. I had been in contact with Maddie to let her know of my schedule and which bus I would take but when I moved towards the exit, THERE SHE WAS!! She had come to escort me back which was useful because I had completely misunderstood the directions as to where to wait for the bus, and though she had to wake up early, because she was in uniform, the trip was free. We caught the 8AM bus #485 to Jerusalem. It continued to batter my stomach the way the flight had but after an hour and lots of traffic, we got to our stop – the construction site that is at Binyanei Ha’umah. Up to Maddie’s apartment for the opening of the suitcase and for shacharit and a prayer that my stomach would settle down eventually. We contacted Ira and met up with him at Café Aroma for a morning coffee. Then we walked around running little errands (Maddie needed hangers) and, an hour or two later, some food. While walking around we saw a commotion and some blocked off streets. Apparently there was a suspicious item somewhere so the bomb squad had to blow it up. Five times. It as very loud, but it wouldn't have been out of place in Manhattan. I forced myself to eat Moshikos because some things are important. Maddie went to get her nails done. I felt that my nails were already finished to Ira and I walked through the shuk a little. We got to Nomi’s and presented the big surprise. She did seem shocked and not really dismayed so I will take this as a win. We hung out there and I started falling asleep on a bed. We knew it was time to walk some more so back to the shuk and I pickd up a diet Coke which I hoped would help carry me over to dinner. Ira introduced me to his friend at the restaurant “Hatch” and we chatted about transliterated names. He stopped for some fresh squeezed pomegranate juice which was fantastic. We met up with two of his kids and Maddie and went back to Nomi and David’s to spend some time with them.

Then off to dinner. We went with the Weisingers and Ira and 2 of his kids to Ish-Tabach which makes meat bourekas and shepherds pies. They also have what they call a "potato salad" which is fried potato wedges. This is salad? Had I known that I would ave been encouraging salad consumption from way back. Afterwards Maddie and I walked back to her apartment and I fought the tendency of the world to move ad spin uncontrollably as sleep hints that it would be amenable to my invoking it. She wants to go out with friends tonight, but we have to watch Shiriyah at 2 in the morning and then she has to go to speak at a Lone Soldiers’ Center in the morning, so this should be interesting. In fact, we are eating at the LSC for Friday night.

More tomorrow or after Shabbat.

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