It turns out that the tones of Jerry Douglas’ dobro on “Cluck Old Hen” make for fairly compelling “GET OUT OF BED” sounds at 5:55 a.m..
Granted, the manic sounds of those vibrating strings clearly received a boost from the dual motivations provided by the excitement of knowing you’re about to embark on an exciting endeavor and by the pressure of getting yourself and two young boys prepared for the day and out the door about half-an-hour earlier than you typically manage on your better-executed weekdays.
Fortunately, we had padded our planned departure time generously enough to offset all the little minutes required for the unforseen events that tend to happen when you have two preschool-aged children in the mix. The younger son got to the door before realizing he had erred in requesting “moose hat,” and needed immediately to switch into “reindeer hat.” With the left foot shod, elder brother needed me to stop and listen to descriptions of a fictional Mexican restaurant, suddenly Owen’s favorite restaurant, that serves pizza that younger, dairy-allergic Henry could eat “AND FIVE kinds of pizza for me!” with right hand held out toward me with fingers splayed to serve the double function of demonstrating just how great a variety was on offer at this non-existent pizza-serving Mexican restaurant, as well as a pre-emptive fending off of Daddy’s repeating of “Owen, please put your other shoe on so we can get going.”
We drove through a darkened and eerily quiet White Center on our way to the airport, listening to Abigail Washburn, which inspired The Missus to inform me we’d be sending a Christmas card to Ms. Washburn, her husband Bela Fleck, and their cute son Juneau (so y’all have THAT to anticipate next winter!). As usual, Erin and I tried to have small conversations between the continued interruptions from the back seat, primarily concerning more of Owen’s favorite Mexican restaurants that are open before the sun comes up. When confronted with the relative fact that there aren’t too many of them open quite so early as 7 a.m., he non-chalantly switched subjects.
“Hey guys, do you see the lights on the road? I love them.”
Erin, who had previously nearly taken the wrong exit and put us on a path toward Seattle rather than SeaTac, caught a sign over the road into the airport saying the “Departures” area was congested and suggested she drop me at “Arrivals.” It turned out a sage move, as there was virtually nobody in that area.
Choking back the lump in my throat as I got out of my car, again thinking of how I was about to give my last kisses and hugs to my boys for nearly nine days, I restored my facade of non-empathetic stoicism before saying my goodbyes.
My wife sent me off with a final ass-grab, which was nice.
The arrivals platform at SeaTac airport is one level below the departures, which means that all I had to do was take an elevator and I’d be right where I needed to be to have arrived without the hassle of fighting through all the other people being dropped off above.
Security lines didn’t seem too long, so I probably could have opted out of letting the airport get a naked-ish image of me holding my hands above my head, but I wasn’t feeling it and just allowed it to remain among the many indignities of air travel.
Once through security, I found my flight’s gate just a dozen steps from the benches where everyone else was putting their shoes and belts back where they’d meant them to be. Beltless, I slipped my shoes quickliy back onto my feet and hustled over to the Starbucks, conveniently located right next to the boarding area.
The stainless steel travel mug I removed from my messenger bag is covered with pictures of my sons. It’s not the greatest travel mug for keeping coffee hot, nor for keeping it from dipping all over your knuckles and clothes, but it’s great at getting the attention of baristas. After getting my order, the woman charged with getting my caffeine fix asked where I got my “cute cup,” which was distracting enough for her to quickly forget what I had requested, coffee-wise. I repeated my order upon request.
With a surprising amount of time remaining before it was time to board, I decided to find some breakfast beyond the pastries offered by the Siren. The nearby options were a bagel joint and one of those steam-table Chinese-food restaurants you seen in mall food courts. In all honesty, I didn’t even notice the Chinese spot at first, assuming they weren’t open, as the only people queing for service were either at Starbucks or the bagel joint.
I just didn’t really want a bagel, for whatever reason, and started back the other direction, when an Asian woman passed me, approached the counter of the Chinese place, and seemed to give some orders to the woman behind it, which made me realize they were open.
Admittedly, my first instinct was that I probably could really be down with some good Chinese food, even before eight in the morning, but this wasn’t the sort of place that deals in “good” food, at least not when I speak of “good Chinese food.”
Even so, I just didn’t want a bagel.
Upon approach, I realized the things that looked like maybe the bright-red sweet-and-sour mystery meat normally thrust at passers-by at mall food courts — in the hopes of drawing customers previously unaware they were in search of incredibly sweet meat candy as a lunch option — where not those things at all, rather simpy bacon. Scanning quickly, there were lonelky potatoes and some slightly dry-looking scrambled eggs. The battered sign atop the steam table detailed the breakfast combo deal, which gave you any three items for five bucks.
Not a bagel AND five bucks? Sold.
The incredibly friendly woman with the broken English bid me to wait patiently for my meal, as she had just asked the man in the kitchen to deliver fresh eggs. She also steered me away from the hash browns, telling me “You eat these. They better. Fresh. Those frozen.”
In less time that what requires much patience, I had a styrofoam clamshell with a sizable pile of scrambled eggs, a half-dozen roasted half-potatoes, and a few curled strips of the unnaturally bright bacon.
And I enjoyed what I believe has to be the best five-dollar breakfast to be had in the SeaTac airport . . .
The sign called the portion “3 eggs,” but there was no way it was fewer than five eggs. The bacon was just okay, which is pretty sad considering that bacon is pretty much always good, so that’s a mark against. The half potatoes, though, were delicious, especially coated with the red-chile sauce I got with my meal. I also used the sauce with the eggs, which I know from my days of wok cooking, had been cooked in plenty of oil.
Maybe an obscene amount of oil.
It was great.
Not great, though, was my exit-row seat for the flight to Phoenix. I had celebrated victory the day before when I somehow managed to score exit-row seats for both legs of my trip to Orlando. Being somewhat tall, air travel can be a little extra awful cramped. It is the only time in my life I ever think of my height as a curse.
My understanding of exit-row seats was that they always have plenty of space in front of them, which is why I was excited. When I arrived to my seat, though, I learned that not all exit-row seats are created equal. In fact, this exit-row seat looked like any other seat in coach except the ones in the row in front of my seat.
I crammed myself into the center seat of the row and folded my legs as best I could without jabbing knees into the space of my neighbors or into the back of the seat in front of me, which was occupied by a giant Captain Seahawk in a Seattle NFL jersey and sporting his Seahawks knit cap throughout the flight. I wasn’t thrilled about the way Captain Seahawk bounced around in his seat. continually thrusting the ball atop his neon green and blue hat toward my face and bumping my Chromebook screen with his seat back, as he bored his neighbor to tears probably with tales of the heroic quarterbacking of Russell Wilson or some such.
But all of that was preferable to Captain Seahawk finally settling down for a rest and deciding, despite having all the leg room in the world, that he needed to recline his seat back all the way into my screen, nearly crushing display of my Chromebook as it was wedged between tray table and the indentation of the seat.
I choked back my murderous impulses, trying to feel sorry for someone so inconsiderate of the plight of his fellow man and someone for whom the height of sports fandom is the masturbatory 12th-Fan nonsense, but mostly wanting to snatch that stupid hat off his head and then, when he turned around to confront me, whipping it into his stupid Seahawk-loving (not ‘loving’ enough to stay in town for a playoff game, just ‘loving’ enough to have new gear to wear on the flight) face.
Fortunately, the flight didn’t last too much longer, so the damage was minimized, though not my anger.
On the much longer flight from Phoenix to Orlando, I not only had one of those exit-row seats without a seat in front of it, but there wasn’t even a soul in the seat next to me. It was coach-class jackpot, as far as I’m concerned, which means I have nothing about which to bitch, even though I was hungry and anxious to be not still travelling.
Fast-forward past me watching football on my Chromebook as I passed above the southern part of the United States to arrive to an Orlando already plunged into mid-winter dinner-time darkness featuring colder temperatures than what I’d expected to have greet me off the plane (though, all the bugs and mugginess I knew would be here, of course).
On the way from the airport to our “resort” accommodations, my Bundesliga Fanatic colleague — who had arrived from St. Louis a few hours prior — and I stopped at a chain restaurant for dinner — because I had been on planes all day and had not really eaten since breakfast — and beers — because I had been on planes all day and who needs a “because” to have a beer anyhow?
We had barely gotten a beer in front of us before a loud, repetitive beeping sound became my post-flight seat-in-front-of-me-reclined-into-my-knees, as if Logan’s had somehow knew that all-day air travel was not nearly as obnoxious as what I really needed. As the sound continued, I’d take the occasional look around the restaurant to see whether anyone who worked at this Logan’s might be alarmed by the noise, that indeed sounded like an alarm, or maybe was offering explanation to patrons. What I saw was overwhelming obliviousness.
Until . . .
“EVERYBODY?! I have to ask y’all to leave the building.” (In truth, I don’t know if the young woman said “y’all,” but that’s how I’m choosing to remember it.)
So, it WAS an alarm then?
While the bartender hadn’t really been too forthcoming with information as the alarm persisted, he did suggest I take my beer with me onto the patio as I awaited the outcome of . . . whatever happens when you have an alarm in your restaurant that everyone who works in the restaurant until the fire department arrives and insists you evacuate the premises.
As I waited, with beer, the bartender told me that their alarm goes off “all the time,” which is why nobody employed there reacts to it.
It turns out the time it takes for the fire department to clear your restaurant in these situations is approximately 1.3 beers long, which made the comped first beer of my tab about . . . too much math for me to give you a percentage on the inconvenience, but not quite enough to appease.
Even so, free beer is free beer, so “another Stella please and what do you mean you didn’t order our food yet . . . but I suppose that’s okay because the kitchen was emptied and it would have had to been remade anyhow, so we’re square, hoss!”
Bartender steered me toward the buttermilk fried chicken with mashed potatoes, which sounded great. Unfortunately, any advantage of ordering such a dish in the American south is completely negated by doing so in a chain restaurant; the incredibly bland results your punishment for eating in a chain restaurant, especially one that gave you every opportunity and reason to leave for less obnoxious pastures.
Ezell’s . . . never again will I step out on you like that, I promise. I am sorry. Truly. I am sorry.
I ate in disappointment, not only in the food, but in how the Carolina Panthers clearly were too inept to provide me a “THAT IS WHAT YOU GET FOR RECLINING YOUR SEAT, CAPTAIN SEAHAWK!” moment.
What was eventually accomplished by the end of the extended visit to Logan’s was no longer being hungry, so with that, it was off to the store for minimal supplies and off to the “resort” (if you call yourself a “resort,” are you a resort? Are there rules?) to unpack and try to get to bed at an hour that would help combat the problems that might come with a three-hour time difference.
You know, so I could awaken at 4 a.m. my normal time to show up at practice and finally see my club in action, live and in person . . . and maybe impersonate a journalist-ish . . .
More later . . .