Sunday, September 16, 2007

Summer Vacation 2007: Michigan to New York and back again

After recovering from an airplane respiratory infection, trying to recover from the too much money I spent and welcoming my dog back from doggie camp while I was away, I've finally posted a montage of my trip to Michigan and New York City. Essays and pictures apear below...enjoy!

Summer Vacation 2007: Flying the friendly skies

Things I Learned on Summer Vacay at the Airport

By Ryn Gargulinski
At Tucson International Airport:
Do NOT book a 2 p.m. flight out of Tucson during the summer. Mid-afternoon is prime monsoon zone, especially on a Saturday with a crowded airport. Your options will be to wait it out, missing any connecting flight and becoming stranded at whatever city the next flight dumps you in, or to go back home and try again the following day at 7 a.m. There’s nothing like a Sunday 5 a.m. drive to the Tucson airport. It was quite pleasant, actually. The only time driving 10 miles or so in Tucson took less than an hour.

At New York’s LaGuardia Airport:
Do NOT fly out of this mess. Although I’ve always touted LaGuardia above Kennedy or Newark, I now don’t know why. When they say to arrive two hours before your flight, they are definitely not kidding. That’s exactly how long it took to wait in the snaking lines that had no real direction, check in a single bag (which you have to haul over to the x-ray machine yourself) and then stand for 45 minutes with your shoes off on cold airport floor while the man in front of you, who came clad in brass belt buckle, large spurred cowboy boots and a 10-gallon supply of metal jewelry, removes all things that make the metal detector beep. A plus at LaGuardia, however, was watching the really angry German man in a San Juan T-shirt argue with the airline workers about bringing 22 carry-ons on board.

At Detroit Metro Airport:
While most of it’s new, gleaming and sprawling, there’s a dinky little downstairs area that looked like it was constructed in 1953. You first have to find the stairwell to the bowels of the building, where you will also find security offices and big signs that say DO NOT ENTER and EXPLOSIVES INSIDE. Instead of the snaking enclosed walkway from the terminal into the plane, you will have a set of rickety stairs they wheel around to tiny aircraft. That’s where planes to New York fly out of.

On Airplanes in General:
The seats got smaller, the delays got longer and they no longer serve free, 9,000-calorie meals. Many of the seats pockets are missing barf bags, something I know since I use them as drawing paper. And unless you’ve bulked up on Airborne, Echinacea, vitamin C and other substances to make your immune system as impenetrable as armor, you’re going to get sick. Recycled air, jet fuel fumes and sitting for hours next to someone hacking up phlegm tends to do that to you. I ended up with an upper respiratory infection that floored me for three weeks, thereby eliminating any marathon running I had intended during my vacation.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

New York City Summer

Things I Learned on Summer Vacay in New York City

By Ryn Gargulinski

In Brooklyn: It still rocks. It’s still adorned with gorgeous views of the second-coolest bridge in the world, the Verrazano-Narrows, parks packed with dogs afrolic on deep green grass and it still has good bagels. Trees still grow there, although many were knocked asunder from their first tornado in 50 years the day after I left. My favorite thing about Brooklyn remains that neighborhood feel, something that took me about 10 years to appreciate after kicking and screaming at my move out of Manhattan. I’d not have it any other way, except to perhaps make the subway ride into my favorite Manhattan haunts a little quicker.

At Coney Island: They are going to wreck it by ripping down everything fun, funky, seedy and cool and erecting high rise somethings that people will pay top dollar for and still live near a crime-ridden neighborhood. Much controversy is hitting the graffiti-ed wall on this one, especially since rumor has it the guy who snatched up all the land will raze everything and let empty lots fill up with broken bottles to force the city to approve whatever zoning he needs to build what he wants. The bat cage and speed racers were already gone, say goodbye to Astroland and the kiddie rides, but at least word has it no one's destroying the adorable Freak Show.

At the Beach with Wendy: Since she despises Coney Island, we took a couple of jaunts to Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways. Must admit the atmosphere is much calmer by the seaside, especially since I was once hit in the head with a soccer ball at Coney Island. I still love the sand, the sun, the umbrella to block the sun since everyone in Tucson talks about skin cancer and the majestic Atlantic. After living in the Northwest, I found the Pacific to be a cold angry sea, at least up by Oregon. You couldn’t even swim in it without 22 layers of wetsuit protection and a helmet for when you crashed into the massive rocks. In the Atlantic we dipped marvelously in the surf beneath the fattest seagulls you ever did see.

On the Brooklyn Bridge: Plan to have your camera’s battery run out just when you hit the middle of the bridge where you have the best photo ops with the NYC skyline. No one was walking a dog on the bridge, either, and I wondered if it were not allowed or dog owners were just smart enough to figure out walking a dog 119 feet above the East River with zooming cars, rambling tourists and massive noise on either side of you is just not the best idea. Regardless of the massive heat that hit New York while I was there, you get a damn good breeze perched on the ultimate bridge in the world.

On the R Train: Subways still suck (although they’ve made some hearty improvements in the past two years). Some of the lines have the high-tech mapping and computer voice system once only found beneath the streets of Paris. Unfortunately, the computer voice went in the wrong direction on two separate occasions. The first faux pas happened at Coney Island when it told passengers we were in Harlem. The second was a Brooklyn-bound N train it said was next stopping in Queens.

In Manhattan: It’s still grimy, crazy, crowded, zany and hopelessly romantic.

New York: White things