Yep, just need to kick the travel-bitching posts off the front page. My Ames story is here, and it’s a monster: 2800 words written across five cities (Ames-Des Moines-Omaha-Chicago-Washington).
I almost hope that my flight tomorrow is delayed, just for the irony points.
Here I was, set to write something about how accommodating airports have become, how we are no longer cut off from the world. However, here’s how my travel schedule worked out.
– Arrive at Long Beach airport 1:45 p.m. for 3:45 p.m. flight to Omaha.
– Am told that flight is canceled, am assigned to 5:35 p.m. flight to Omaha from LAX.
– Cab arrives at LAX at 3:00 p.m.
– Am selected for extra screening at 3:15 p.m.
– Walk to gate at 5:00 p.m. and learn that flight has been delayed to 7:45 p.m.
Hey, if any of you whining ‘huskers in my terminal are reading right now: Shut the fuck up. Or maybe trade places with me and try the breakneck race to the car rental place (closes at 12:45 a.m., the exact time the plane is scheduled to arrive) followed by the 2 hour trip to Des Moines. Followed, four hours later, by a wake-up call and trip to Ames, Iowa. Seriously: Shut the fuck up. I’ll find where you live and turn a garden hose on your DVD collection.
I think I’d need a week, two weeks, to really do the Southern California tourism I want to do. When I stay for a few days my focus is on meeting with friends, and there are now three strata of said friends: ex-high school, ex-college, ex-work. And all are way the hell on opposite sides of the city. (C.J., who graciously put me up in Whittier, didn’t know where the very western La Cienega Blvd was; West LA friends didn’t know where Whitter was.)
So I had vague visions of visiting Joshua Tree National Park, but for two days I actually just commuted from east L.A. to Reason’s office, about an hour away w/ traffic. Then I hit the phones for some stories until 6-7ish, when traffic died down. Then I latched on to a different friend each night for some quality hang-out time. I had my very first encounter with Venice proper, the crazy side of Venice, the side that boycotts Pink Berry because HOW DARE a chain restaurant move into our neighborhood, and dug it mightily. I had coffee then dinner on Sunset Blvd and mocked way-too-tan android women who were buzzing about what they saw on PerezHilton.com. I visited the cavernous Amoeba and found the John Adams Earbox – a mighty find almost equal to last year’s Supernatural Fairy Tales haul. I dined in Matt Welch and Emmanule Richard’s Fellini-esque abode at the eastern end of Sunset (how Fellini-esque? There is an oil painting of Welch and Ken Layne). I ambled around West Hollywood as domesticated queens heckled the LOGO Democratic forum.
Obviously traffic sucked, but I didn’t succeed at all in losing my West Coast fetish. The trip to Iowa is going to be depressing.
Simple: I have lots of friends in L.A. and it takes a really long time to get across town to see them. Also, for two days I was still on the clock. Three times, then, a 12:30-1:00 a.m. bed time and a 6:30 a.m. wake-up.
All worth it. This trip actually allowed some tourist stuff, most notably the Richard Nixon museum. I had heard that the private money that built the museum (under the watchful eyes of Hugh Hewitt) built a Watergate room that spun the scandal as a trumped-up bit of nothing, a tragedy that brought down a great president. The public money that’s flowed since then has left the room… under construction. For chuckles I had to soak in the “10 domestic triumphs” room, which included Nixon’s war on drugs (or “on the tune in, turn on, drop out crowd,” as the mural put it).
Had a great conversation with one greeter/tour guide, a retired Defense contractor who welcomed people to a room of gifts Nixon had received from world leaders. I noted that a lot of them were from monsters – Ceaucescau, Samoza, etc.
“What would you call the King of Saudi Arabia?” he asked.
“I guess he’s a dictator we do business with.”
“Sure, but I got a problem when they want to bring that over here.” Meaning Islam. “They want to, you know, come here and wear their babooskas and their burqas. I think the French actually had the right idea banning those in the schools.”
It was a lively exchange.
OK, my theory that LA’s appeal would dim on a return visit has not panned out. I’ve been in the periphery of the city – Whittier, Long Beach, for chrissake – and it’s clogged with strip malls and yet still brilliant.
The Chicago trip has gone much, much better than I expected. I don’t think I blew anyone away with my YKos reporting, but it went well enough. And I had a long chat with Hendrik Hertzberg about parliamentary systems, which was terrific both because no one ever wants to talk about parliamentary systems and because I’m a huge fan of Hertzberg. Saw all but two or three people I wanted to, but soaked up parts of Chicago I never really visited when I was an overworked student.
Headed to LA now. You have my cell phone number, LA friends: Call me.
Aren’t my travel plans exciting? On day three of my travelocity-searching-between-flights-or-blog-panels I was trying to get a hotel or motel near Ames, Iowa. Hotels in Ames were mostly booked, no surprise. So I checked out hotels down the road in Des Moines, and I had some choices. Small, dingy inns with no amenities were around $60-70 per night. Larger inns with wireless internet – which I badly need since I’m filing a story from the hotel – were around $80-90 per night, and one of the would-be bargains charged $12.95 a day for internet. And a beautiful hotel on the Des Moines River with free wireless was… $109. Why? I mean, woo-hoo, but why?
Ah, the joy of plotting your own business trips. It turned out I could grab a flight from Los Angeles to Des Moines – a mere 30 minutes from the Ames Straw poll – for about $400. That seemed pricey. But I opened up a map and plotted a course and it turns out that Omaha, Nebraska is 1)only 3 hours from Ames and 2)has a bigger airport than Des Moines. So if all goes well I will arrive in Omaha at 11 p.m. next Friday, grab a rental car (Budget!), navigate by the North Star to Des Moines, and wake up five hours later for a trip to Ames.
This will work.
Here’s the schedule:
Chicago August 2-6
Los Angeles August 6-10
You didn’t think Iowa would be the last stop on the tour, did you. Do I actually know anyone in Iowa?