fj: (USA)
Been a week since I got on a plane for a quick jaunt to DC.

I was too late to get the super special Premium Economy deal upgrade anymore. I realized I could have put it on the US AmEx card and used my travel points to get it for free. Instead I upgraded to emergency exit for £50. So worth it. Stretched out and everything. Good food, not as good video entertainment, though. Screens were washed out, channels were off.

Which means I sat across from cabin crew during take-off and landing. The one on the way to looked like a blond Victoria Beckham, prompting me to wonder what she would have been as a Virgin Atlantic stewardess. I asked her if the little water landing two days ago in New York unnerved her. Her first reaction made her so-far blank face light up and she said something along Heck no, I wish something would happen. Then she caught herself and said no, this didn't faze anyone at all. I confirmed she had actually done a live water evac during training.

I had to get used to people speaking to me again in the US. Super Shuttle personnel guiding us so that we would be inside and not stand in the cold while the van came, hotel staff showing interest, waiters introducing themselves and bantering, and just people in general ready to talk. I walked up to people and they did not have to adapt.

DC was hopeful and alive and I was so right to not do 2008 in the USA. I mean, when I entered Whole Foods and saw Obama's face on cheesecakes I was like um, euw, a whole year of that kind of national banter just through my flist was bad enough.

The disastrous and mean result in California overshadowed the news of the election for me, so it was like I was catching up with how it was. I was so giddy to hear that the night of November 4th blocks had to be cordonned off in DC for celebrations, that people on Penn Ave were chanting "Pack. Your. Bags! Pack. Your. Bags!"

I was doing a test here to see if I could fulfill the primary goal of being in Europe, seeing my family, while living on the East Coast. How bad would it be to dip into NL four times a year or so over a weekend if I lived in NYC? Then I remembered I already did this in 2001 when my mother was dying, and this last week reminds me I have not gotten any better at handling that jetlag.

"So where's home for you now?" asks the acquaintance on my right during dinner. My friends accross from me kinda sigh and grimace, they know how I am.
I waffle, I um, I hesitate. Finally I say: "The other side of this table."

When I went back, I upgraded again. For nothing, because the plane Monday night was practically empty. Everyone could get a middle row to stretch out in. I asked for any leftover desserts, after dinner service was over the nice lady brought me two.
fj: (Default)
Man, when you have one those blue toilet-cleaning bombs in your toilet tank, that first flush after having been away for two weeks is really, really b l u e.


Jul. 29th, 2008 06:36 am
fj: (Default)

"Ride", Nokia N73, San Francisco, 2008

fj: (LA)
I haven't been able to blog because when I come home I am so tried from having been everywhere and seen people. I can barely keep up with just reading before I fall asleep at my desk.

It's like I never left, but condensed into a week. Everything is here and I can't fit it all in but I am having fun trying.

I left behind a lot when I left to London. A lot.
fj: (travel)
Y'all are reading [ profile] dr_memory's Illustrated Travelogue of Japan, right?

I am hooked n every word.

How It Was

Jul. 11th, 2008 03:55 pm
fj: (travel)
So, contradictions. Düsseldorf is an impossibly chic little city, but rents in the central area, not at all run down, are ridiculously cheap. Germany is going through a prolonged economic malaise due to reunification, but organic-ish vegetables and perfectly lovely store brand products in my local supermarket cost nothing. And this gig was in Germany and yet I was caught dead doing it1.

This gig for Vodafone was one that my agent has been trying to get me to take fo a while, but I never liked the terms: one had to be in Germany at least four days a week, which means that if you do not move outright for the whole thing, you end up in London only one full day, and I went to London 6 months ago to live there, not in Germany. But after not having worked for a month and a half after that single week with the consultancy, and my savings being equally unhappy after this move, I was more receptive. Then my agent called and said he had talked them down to three days at the office, which means two days of work and weekends at home, plus an unbelievable dayrate as long as I paid my own travel and lodgings, but that those could come off taxes, and I said ok. It's only a 55 minute flight after all.

Logistics-wise, the gig turned out to be better than I thought it would be. Of course the first week I overpayed for a hotel, not knowing what and where. The next week I didn't because I knew where the Hotel Ibis was, a Europe-wide brand of cheap business hotels near train stations. By the third week, my appartment had been arranged, and that made me the slow one in the office: the MZW agency can do that in a day, and had for most of my colleagues who flew in like me. €580,- a month for a big studio in the center of town. Almost every name on the letterboxes, stuck on with label-maker tape, was Indian. The landlord basically rents to all us temp workers. Only drawback of my lovely space: it's a 6th floor walk-up. Oh yeah. The city was rebuilt in the 50s after the war, and elevators were not a priority.

So, little cheap Bio supermarket on the same street. Streetcar stop on the corner which I could take to work. The Vodafone tower and adjacent buildings are pretty much on the Rhine, and modern and spacious and open. My co-workers were nice, and it was kind of fun to sit in the auxiliary room together with all the young designers from the contracting firms chattering away. The work was perfectly do-able and started out bringing me further along to mastering the bread-and-butter of mercenary UI designers (which I am still relatively recent at) but by the end had me back writing strategic documents about revenue opportunities in new media (which I can do in my sleep if you tell me the focus).

I looked at all the gyms online, visited a few from very middle-of-the-road to very expensive, and settled for a bodybuilder's gym that had a good 3-month rate and was in the city center. I walked a lot with my backpack with this heavy computer and gym clothes, I ended up never buying protein powder but just eating a lot of eggs and chicken and tuna and fromage frais (known as Quark in German).

I settled on a routine for flying in and out on Monday and Thursday evenings. This means Mondays were always chaotic as I had to get ready to leave, spend a lot of time actually traveling (bus from Oval to Paddington, Heathrow Express, Plane, Taxi), and still get a whole day of work in and exercise, while Fridays were a mess while I had to get a whole day of work in, do expenses paperwork and time sheets, and was just a general tired mess from flying in Thursday night. Every Friday night when I got in to bed having juggled and hurried and done everything and eaten and worked out at two gyms and not dropped any balls, I just collapsed, and then reminded myself I'd get to do it all over again in two days. Sometimes with having to go to the bank on Monday as well to travel with €1K in cash, as using my UK and US cards was either impossible or expensive for things like rent or food. Never used it for shopping, though, as I never had time by day. This last trip I was able to just walk the whole of the shopping street and see how for a small city, Ddorf is just really well supplied in high-end fashion, all in a really nice area. Balenciaga's black knitwear for this season is Teh Raumpatrouille Orion Sex2.

The constant planning got tedious. What clothes were where, what should I bring, do I have enough cash for the taxi, what was in what fridge (which is important if you often arrive after shops close), what did I need to bring to work, what would fit in what bag. When I came back in London from having stayed over a weekend to visit my family I learned that Tesco's Finest Orange Juice is not pasteurized: the bottle had bulged, opening it was a plopping adventure, and the OJ had been diligently fizzily carbonated by little entities. The only way to deal with all the planning was routines: everything had to have a place and time, from when I switched currencies, to when and where I would switch keys on my key chain, to when I would pull out my passport and when I would put it back to what I would buy and when I would leave. I couldn't keep track of it all at the same time, so I kept track of each thing as it happened and put it in a place that would be predictable for the next time this part of the routine had to happen. By the end it was actually all really relaxed trip-wise, I just ran through the steps, back and forth, with the only spanner in the works being the damn planes. I only got three outright cancellations in the whole period.

As for visiting my father, one of the reasons I took this gig, that didn't happen because it was really hard to schedule him. He was busy every weekend in May, and I only stayed over on the continent once to see him in June. I will this weekend, but the whole let's go to Rozendaal often just didn't pan out much. The work did, minus two weeks, and the weather was often very lovely. I'd do this again. But now, two days in Amsterdam, and then to Dad, and then Monday to London.

1Ancient Euro rivalry alert
2If you are into paying €1200,- for a sweater, that is.

Back In T5

Jul. 8th, 2008 10:35 am
fj: (travel)
Because I didn't get a transportation voucher, I took the Tube, and thus ended up at the kiosk 30 yards in front of security at the exact time BA decided I should have been going through security. The kiosk sent me to a desk, the desk considered the flight 'closed' which confused me to no end because that flight closes only 20 minutes in advance. No, it was closed for people who still had to go through security, please go to the service desk, no word on whether I would have to pay full price or not.

The service desk had a snaking queue again 4 windings deep, every windwing about, again, 30 yards, as if nothing had changed since last night. I resigned myself and got in line, looking over at the Business class and higher line that had 8 people waiting and at least 2 desk assistants. A man two windings down from me actually got out of the queue to talk to a floor rep and tell her that this was out of proportion, 10 desks for Economy and 4 for Business and higher. The floor rep could only answer they didn't have any more staff, there was no more staff, no more staff, Sir, and btw it was only two desks for Business and higher. I wondered if this is how riots start, but just at that time two cops with really big vests and really big big guns walked by doing their rounds. I guessed not.

I hit 'Call' on my phone to redial the BA number and got a telephone rep. I first asked him to make sure my return had not been auto-canceled for having missed the outgoing, and then asked to be rebooked. I need to go, I need to clean the appartment and get my €1000,- security deposit back. I explained my situation, and that BA rep made my previous entry the ranting of an angry loon for he didn't charge me anything. I bet the flight I missed for being exactly on time at the wrong side of a queue was overbooked anyway, but still, that was really nice.

Which means I get to spend some hours here. Fine by me, I would have been behind the Internet at home anyway, so I might as well do it here. Have some Birchermuësli, maybe a steamed milk later, shop a little, look at Sony's OLED TVs, things I never had time for when I came here for work.
fj: (travel)
Not content with merely being 10 to 20 minutes late in departing, as the BA0946 to Düsseldorf has been the last 7 weeks or so, for my last flight to Germany BA decided to cancel it outright. And 4 other flights to continental Europe with it. They blame weather which can't be called out of the ordinary for London at all. Of course, being on time to hold up my end of the deal, I had already gone through security, so I dutifully trudged to the service desk as the sign told me to do. Where first one guy checks us while in line and tells us to wait, and another guy 20 minutes later tells us all that we have to go "landside", which means going down to Arrivals, waiting in line for passport control, and go to the big bank of customer service desks in the Departures terminal. There is no doubt in my mind the desk we were already at could have easily rebooked us.

This is what I hate about airlines: there is 0 understanding for our mishaps on their side but we are supposed to deal with 100% of the shit they throw on us, on top of paying dear money for it. If your car breaks down and you are late at the airport, you will have to pay full price for the next flight. Meanwhile they can decide to take their birds out of service at any time, and they may, may, give you a refund, minus taxes, fees, and service charges after treating you with no real respect for your circumstances beyond, of course, confsing you, making you wait, trudge, wait, trudge, and then get into a line I estimated to be about an hour long when we did arrive to the central service desks, and giving us a bad photocopy of some perfunctory apologies signed by some guy named Dirk who of course was not in line with us and gets to go home at night where he wants to be while being paid for being at the airport while we just lose time. I have come to the point that sincere apologies from anyone with the word 'Customer' in their title only irritate me, as the apologies end up meaning nothing tangible in my life. Refunds, credits, trying to make things right, those do. A photocopied apology but then making me stand in line forever to receive the exact level of service on a product I would already get anyway only pisses me off more, even if the sheet did mention we could call the toll free number or go online to change the booking.

I called the number for BA as it was on the copy as I stood in line, and did get their phone ticketing desk. They, of course, couldn't tell me whether any other airline was leaving that night that I could get a seat on, only the people at the Heathrow desks could, but by the time I got to them all those seats would be gone anyway to the people in front of me, and besides, the customer rep figured not anyway, as the bad weather was not just at Heathrow but also in Germany. Ok, rebook me for tomorrow then. Can I get a transportation voucher then? Well, stay in that hour long line being slow with people being rebooked to get to a service desk for that simple credit, she could not do anything over the phone. When I got off the phone after being confirmed I left the rebooking line and tried one of the floor reps if he knew how to get me a transportation voucher -- I don't need rebooking, I don't need to hold the rebooking line up, I just need a signature on a simple print. Of course not, go stand in the line. I look over and see a shorter line, can I get in that. No, that bank of desks are doing something else. I then notice the signage above it and know what is going on, and look the rep point blank in the face and tell him that no, that bank of desks is doing exactly the same. Only then does he say admit those desks are servicing only the First and Business Class customers, which to my brain is doing exactly the same and his previous answer was just bullshit weaseling, and I turn and walk away while he is still talking to me. Fuck this.

I get to do it all over aain tomorrow.

Miss Me?

Jul. 1st, 2008 10:00 am
fj: (travel)
Seems I'll be going to LA July 18th and then the weekend after that to Dore in SF.

It is extravagant since I do not know where my next paycheck will come from and I haven't fully stocked up the savings accounts from my move, but I wanted a holiday with friends and beach, and it turns out that, while the ticket is kind of expensive, accommodation is free.
fj: (Default)
It's sales here in London. Which in Selfridges, the Big Store for Upscale Designer Everything, especially on a Friday, is just like Pride: gay men everywhere getting dressed up, trying to find the best they can, and hoping nobody from work sees them. I went with [ profile] iejw, which was really great because it is hard to find shopping buddies. Hard for me to shop for myself since 2/3s of my stuff is in transit so I am not sure what I need.

Then we went to my place where I stacked open whole-grain rolls with salmon or prosciutto, tomato, orange peppers, spinach, hard boiled eggs, and cheese and put them in the oven to melt. And then left for SoHo again to go to a birthday party in a bar. I like living just a 20 minute bus ride from the center.

And I got tons of socializing done before the weekend had even started, so I am all relaxed now. I have been pretty open and relaxed about life right now. I have the whole traveling to Germany down now, I have been finally paid and have more coming. I am a bit worried about where the next gig is coming from, about how my expenses are structurally too high while I am going to indulge myself with a trip, about how I probably should move to a cheaper area, about how I still haven't received an electric bill, but largely I am ok with this all.

Weather's been pretty nice everywhere. I sleep on the meadow in Vauxhall in the sun when I can.
fj: (travel)
Whether Turkey or Gemany won tonight doesn't matter, as I live in a Turkish neighborhood in a German town: I'll be lucky if I sleep before 2 AM.

Edit: Oh awesome, firecrackers!
fj: (Default)

Heathrow Express Lines
"Heathrow Express Lines", Nokia N73, London, 2008

fj: (travel)
I keep getting into little skirmished with the security people at Düsseldorf airport. First time when they decided they needed to hand check my whole bag and I asked for him to put on gloves. This made the machine guy call a security guard who started quizzing me on whether there was anything dangerous in my bag. No, but I didn't like somebody going through my stuff with his bare hands. Well, gloves were impractical because the machine people had to go through so many bags and they couldn't put ongloves for every one. I named some airports at which they did, but this is of course always a losing battle, and I do not want to get too agitated while I am on sock feet and holding up my pants with my hands already.

I always carry my passport in my hand with me through the security gate: it is important and I want it with me since I already gave up all my other ID with my wallet. I am sure rationally there's no reason for the fact that I want ID on me for the whole 3 feet that walking through the metal detector while my bags are in the machine next to me takes, but I do, with my boarding pass, and it has never been a problem, for over a decade now. I think it has something to do with having had such a tenuous hold on the place where I lived for 13 years: without the proper papers to be produced at a moment's notice, airports are the place where I was most likely to suddenly be deported. You want to keep those things in order and under control.

So, after a decade of walking through metal detectors with my passport in my hand, the machine guy today insisted, insisted it had to go in the tray, just on top of the rest. I told him I didn't like to do that, and I wasn't all smiles about it. He started challenging me what could possibly happen when it went through the machine. I told him, as I flung on to my tray and had walked without a beep through the gate, that sometimes things going into the machine do not make it out in places. He was really cranky at that. "Wir sind ja eine sicherheidsdienst!"

Ha. Ha ha. Check the "loss" points in any mjor airport some time, it always involves security. My bag required a manual check while machine guy was glowering at me, and after that I walked away.
fj: (Default)
is in Terminal 5. Flight canceled. Rebook flight delayed. So browsing profile on while chatting.

Posted with AutoPostBot
fj: (health)
Waking up tired, I powered myself through Thursday, even trying out a new gym to join in Düsseldorf. Yesterday after airline adventures I came home at 1 PM, ready to work, and was unable to do even the minimum of what I would call a normal days output. Juts puttering around all day, catching up on BSG (3 episodes), go to gym, and feel like I won't last 10 more weeks this way on this schedule. Like my body is running on empty.

It's 4.30 PM now, and all I have done is sleep and eat all the healthy food I bought. Then I remembered: Wednesday I felt slightly feverish, but my good friend Ibuprofen took it away overnight. Yes, I am tired, and in Germany I do not take as good care of myself as I should if I am going to be in an airplane and under this work pressure every week, but obviously I am working out some sort of infection right now. Now that I have a flat I can get it together in Germany as well, and I will be ok. Work out. Prepare food I need in portions I need to take to work. Drink more on the plane, even if a small bottle of water costs €3. I just have to have a very slow weekend now. I think tomorrow I will be even able to catch up what I should have done yesterday. And not even consider going to the birthday party at last weeks club being thrown for the East End bouncer we met through chatting with his wife, which'll probably be attended by all his other, equally beefed-up bouncer friends, random East Enders, and sexual deviants he seemed to know last week. His wife, who put me and [ profile] iejw  on the guestlist at 4 AM, probably will have forgotten all about us anyway. Can't go. Want to go. Can't go. Must sleep more now.

( Watched latest BSG, made me gasp at the end. Spoilers in comments.)
fj: (bqw)
I decided to take the 10.50 AM to London tomorrow. I think converting today´s and Monday´s trips into vouchers to use on later dates would be too much trouble.

Meanwhile, I am wondering if I am ready for wedding cake, and everything that comes with it, every month again for a year. Eh, I am too far this time. (But I am sure two people in Santa Monica are pulling corsets out of a closet right now. Again.)

I still beleive same-sex couples getting married is an inherently subversive act. I fully agree with conservative people´s fears it will change the insitution, and I rejoice because I so hope it does. And every one of you who steps forward together to declare your love in public, before and inside the fabric of the law, I wish you a long string of the most beautiful days of your lives.

And for gawds sakes, invest in some Damn Good Cake.
fj: (Default)
Maastricht air traffic control hit by lightning. All flights to london and environs cancelled, including mine. Weekend in Arnhem / Amste ...

Posted with AutoPostBot
fj: (travel)
Düsseldorf is just like Arnhem. Which means nothing to you but a lot to me. Also, have a flat; no more Donner every night.

Actually, that was my Tweet last night, but AutoPostBot did not pick it up because I forgot to start it before I left after a restart of the server. I am back in London now, after an interesting flight. I checked in only this morning to find the system had not put me in my preference, a window seat, but still it had put me as far as front as possible, which is also a preference, just one I had never told BA about. I started moving myself back on the map to get a window and then realized this was stupid: 11E is an isle seat in a row of two in the middle, and for an hour and change that will be just fine, nice at the front. It was only when I boarded that I realized that the system had actually upgraded me: 11E is Business Class or whatever BA calls that. Just because I flew them last week and have three reservations pending for the rest of the month?

Still nice, though. And yes, by June I should be at Silver level so I get to use their airport lounges. I'd like that.
fj: (travel)
Well, I gave all of fascinating LA up to partly be closer to my family, so I actually up and went to NL for Easter. All my nieces and nephwes are here to do an egghunt tomorrow at my Dad's.

1) Door to door, with all weather delays, it takes 7.5 hours to travel from home to my Dad's home,. A lot of that wasted at Heathrow. Trains all the way gets in that same ballpark then, and is more preditable than air travel, really, with all the security and snafus, even if the train becomes a slow mess after Brussels.

2) calculated that, from my house, it was almost as fast to walk to Vauxhall and take the subway to Terminal 4 compared to whatever means I had to to go to a station to take the Heathrow Express to Terminal 4. And the subway is only one pound for this trip since I already have a pass for Zones 1 and 2. The Express is quite a bit more, even if it is only 15 minutes. I found that a very interesting result.


Feb. 1st, 2008 05:35 am
fj: (health)
New to town. Rented tenement. Temazepam either metabolized too fast, or doesn't keep you sleeping anyway. just helps to fall asleep, so I am up at 5 (that's the last time I will settle for generic when I want Lunesta). Cold night. Small space heater, but seems to work. Sick with fever, chills, even wearing socks to bed.

Good that I stocked the fridge.

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Page generated Sep. 22nd, 2017 06:12 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios
July 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 2017