Babies on a Plane

I love people watching. There are few places that offer a better chance to observe human nature than an airport. It’s been a while since I shared an air travel story, so put your tray tables up, your seat in the upright position, and buckle up for a story from 10,000 ft.

My flight from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles requires a quick layover in Dallas, by far one of my least favorite airports. Mostly, I find that the whole “Everything’s bigger in Texas” thing also applies to the people sitting next to you on your flight. As I get to my seat, I’m elated to see I will not have to rub shoulders with my neighbor, but little did I know that my flight would be less than comfortable.

Just as the final passengers are trickling onto the plane, I notice an odd sound coming from the row in front of me—the sound of four distinct breathing patterns. I freeze. The plane is full, there’s nowhere to hide. I close my eyes and say a prayer for peace on Earth and peace within the heart of the baby placed on her Mother’s lap. My prayers go unanswered.

Within minutes, before we’ve even pulled away from the gate, the stale air of the cabin fills with a piercing screech that would shame

even the shrillest of banshees. It’s a sign of the times that the bouncing bundle lacking joy wants to play with an iPad. But wait—there’s another child flying with them, a girl between the ages of three and five. Like a broken record accompanying the baby’s squeals, the older sister begins repeating ad nauseam, “Mommy, you’re closing your eyes.” As if that was news to her mother. At that volume and with that much repetition, it’s news to no one on the plane.

And then, something happens that I could never have predicted, and yet should have expected. The baby’s shrieks have excited another baby a few rows back. They embark on what can only be described as an all out scream off. For each round, the blessed babes elevate their screeches just one pitch higher and louder than the other.

If I’ve ever been thankful for being childless, now is the moment.

I admit I was already pretty peeved this morning. I woke up at 5am after only a couple hours of restless sleep, hindered by a long-standing fear of oversleeping and missing a flight. My exhaustion was tested when the cashier at Dunkin Donuts poured me a coffee with cream even though I explicitly ordered a black coffee. I was too far down the terminal to turn back by the time I’d taken my first sip and realized her mistake. My coffee-addicted, lactose-intolerant body has not been handling the surprise well.

As the babies test their lung capacity (and their respective mothers’ will power), the captain announces that we’d be a bit delayed because the ground crew needs to defrost the plane. Something tells me this won’t be a problem when I’m leaving LA to come back.

Just as the diva infants begin to bring their war of wails to an end, a third baby chimes in. Rather than join his peers in eardrum shattering cries, our latest entrant opts for an onslaught of coos. It’s like baby acapella of the worst possible sort. I try to find a melody in the trio’s vocal eruptions. Alas, no baby Mozart’s in this group. To my dismay, it’s simply a continuous mix of dissonant tones. Maybe it’s a post-melody, post-harmony arrangement—seems perfectly plausible.

I remember one of the first flights I look as a child. At least I think I do, though I shouldn’t be held the accuracy of my recollection. My brother and I flew with my parents to Hawaii. We were on one of those big planes with the long center rows. Our parents seated us on the inside of the row—even then I felt suffocated. The flight felt endless, but we entertained ourselves with our shiny new Power Ranger toys. I can only imagine that there was some caffeine-deprived passenger wishing my own mother had decided against taking us along.

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Baby 1’s name is Dar. I pick up this information midway through the flight when her older sister rats her out for spilling popcorn. Her mother, like a pro, continues to chat to her neighbor as though oblivious to the clear and utter chaos around her. Older Sister alerts her mother that Dar is now eating popcorn off the floor. Mother continues to chat with her neighbor (how exactly the baby managed to reach the popcorn on the floor is beyond me).

The floor-popcorn distracts Dar enough to halt the screaming. A moment of silence, but I know this glorious break won’t last long. It’s just an intermission in a show I never asked to attend. I close my eyes, welcoming the possibility for rest. Just as I’m about to drift off, Baby 2 begins to sob, surely missing his or her new companions. I’ve never been so happy to hear that the plane has begun its descent into the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.

Almost home!

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Philadelphia – The Early Years from an Early Riser

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Greetings from the city of brotherly love! It’s my first time in the great Philadelphia and I couldn’t be more excited. Unfortunately I’m still waiting on my friends and city tour guides to wake up! In the mean time, I’m getting a head start on my Philly facts and history.

Did you know the city of Philadelphia is coming up on its 331st birthday this month? In the year 1682, on October 27 (just a day before my own birthday *hint*) William Penn founded the city after being given a fairly large chunk of American land in repayment of a debt the king owed William’s father, Admiral Sir William Penn. Today that land is Pennsylvania (get it?)…and part of Delaware.
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I often wonder what I would name the kingdom I was born to run, but something about Weissenbergersylvania just doesn’t have a great ring to it. Lianeville seems far too provincial. I’m open to suggestions from the crowd–an indication of my fair, just, and humble leadership style.

For a student of history, Philadelphia rivals Washington D.C. for it’s prominence in the American story. In fact, I think it’s clear that when it comes to Team USA, Philly made the team far sooner. Let’s not forget that Philadelphia’s Carpenters’ Hall housed the First Continental Congress in September 1774. It was in the Pennsylvania State House that they met again in May 1775, and ultimately in July 1776 to write and sign their official FU to England, the Declaration of Independence.

While the Nation’s capital was being built down south along the Potomac, Philly kept the seat warm by serving as a temporary capital for 10 years between 1790-1800. Congress hung out in (suitably) Congress Hall, formerly the Philadelphia County Courthouse, while the Supreme Court took residence at City Hall. The executive branch, the big GW, lived at 6th & Market Street in the donated home of Robert Morris (who is more or less the economic mastermind of the US financial system). His home was renamed President’s House-again, super creative times for naming things. I guess we can’t all have the artistic expertise to choose titles like “White House.”

A note on Robert Morris: This dude was the first guy to officially use the dollar sign. Now that’s bada$$!

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Keep checking in for history from the field!

“Philadelphia is my greatest inspiration. — filmmaker David Lynch

Captain Amurica Counts Down: Top 5 Roadtrip Moments

If you know my friend Captain Amurica, you know he loves countdowns. Here’s his special countdown of the top 5 moments from our cross-country roadtrip.

And with the journey completed as I write this, I’d like to offer up my top 5 things/experiences/events from our tour of America the beautiful, purple mountain’s majesty and endless fields of amber waves of grain:

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5. Eating Rocky Mountain Oysters while in the Rocky Mountains. Go figure.

4. Tie: Both playing and winning slots for the first time in Vegas and a special midnight tour of the Jefferson City Capitol Building (based off our very own here in DC.) Thanks to my buddy Jimmy for being a phenomenal tour guide and an even better host. Word up brosef.

3. Arthur Bryants BBQ in Kansas City. The sweet, smokey, molasses sauce they use probably has just a little bit of crack sprinkled in there. Tantalizing. Also, their sides are absolutely bomb.

2. Hearing Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s song “Ohio” for the first time while driving through Ohio for the first time. An amazing song about a terrible tragedy.

1. Completing this journey of endurance and moral fortitude through sheer force of will and  copious amounts caffeine alongside the Star Spangled Girl. Couldn’t ask for a better partner in crime. Period.

The feeling is mutual.

Captain Amurica Across America – Includes a Poll!

Part two in a three part guest blog series from the amazing Captain Amurica. Did you miss part one? Check it out here.

Arriving into Denver via dark mountain tunnels and passes, with the occasional bighorn sheep apparently just chillin on the side of the mountain. Insert mandatory Will Ferrell/Robert Goulet reference here. Starting with an early morning in the Mile High City compliments of a college friend, Biker Jim’s exotic sausages made for the perfect fuel for the day. A pheasant – rattlesnake and Alaskan Reindeer duo of sausages happily consumed, a tour of Denver was to be had. With a great food scene and even better beer scene, Denver was frankly, awesome. Rocky mountain oysters (which are apparently not actual oysters haha but with the flavor of great veal) and a hand crafted mint julip to start, followed by pizza and a good conversation with the waitress of Lucky Pie Pizza about the greater merits of the prosciutto and fig combination. Any of my close friends will tell you that prosciutto and fig is not only one of my all time favorite combinations, but also extremely funny to shout out randomly in Italian at any given time. Talk about my kind of place. I was sad to see Denver and its Rocky Mountain Back drop fade into wide open sky and endless prairies of Kansas towards Jefferson City, MO and Morgantown, WV, the final leg of our trip.

 Jefferson City, Missouri

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Jeff City, MO is a small town about two hours from St. Louis ( affectionately known as Da Lou) that is also the capital city of Missouri. With so many billboards promoting “adult shops for both singles and couples” I could only imagine what awaited us there. Driving at night we apparently missed the opportunity to view a multitude meth houses per capita for which Missouri leads the US and possibly the world, Jefferson City was a quiet, clean, and quaint town that has that Main Street vibe of old time Americana without ever having to try. A few Busch Lights (in honor of Missouri, of course) and we were walking the steps of the Capitol Building, gazing towards the Governor’s Mansion, and touched by the law enforcement officers memorial. The Mighty Missouri River lay in front of it, and had it not been for the enormous swarms of bugs that often surround large bodies of water on hot and humid summer days, I could have spent all night there. Alas free time was not something we had the luxury of truly enjoying, so instead packed up the next morning for Morgantown, with a stop in Da Lou on the way.

St. Louis, Missouri 

Having been to St. Louis before and having enjoyed it, this stopover was for two things: the Gateway Arch, and frozen custard. Ted Drewes to be exact. And while i’ve never met the dude, gotta give mad respect to him cause the guy knows how to make a bowl of ice cream. Rich, creamy, flavorful and smooth, this was definitely not your low fat treat. Calories be damned, that shit was money. And a perfect sugar rush to get us on our way. As for the Arch? It’s big. And when I say big, I mean it. The Washington Monument ain’t got shit on the Arch. You have to strain your neck just to take in the full purview, and the fact that there are windows across the top presumably for tour taking would’ve the kind of shit your pants awesome that one can only get from sky diving or bungee jumping.

Leaving St. Louis was also the first time that I’ve ever in my life stopped at a Jack in the Box, but the mere fact that you can get cheeseburgers, curly fries,  mozzarella sticks, AND tacos all at the same counter left me befuddled and giddy at the same time.

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Morgantown, West Virginia

Heading into Morgantown,WV reminded me of the trips I used to take to see my grandparents in Pittsburgh. Same landscape, same tyoe of people, same blue collar feeling.  Other than that I was able to glean one other aspect of life in the Mountaineer state and the accompanying West Virginia University – those kids party. And party hard. And love football. And when those two things mix together you have one of lifes greatest events – college football tailgates on Saturdays. Props to those cats at WVU for doing it big. Gotta get back up there in the fall.

The Star-Spangled Girl asks:

Go West, Young Man!

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This blog, brought to you by the linguistic styling my  star-spangled sidekick, Captain Amurica.

Seeing as the Star Spangled Girl decided that she wanted to regain her cherished independence from the clutches of DC’s public transportation system and my work schedule, it was decided that a cross country trip driving the aforementioned Yellow Submarine was to be had. Engaging in such a trek was something I had talked about and wanted to do for awhile, and seeing as how such an opportunity might not present itself in the near future, I willingly agreed to be a travel partner, navigator, and general co-pilot on our trek across the wide open nothingness of middle America. With stops planned in LA, Las Vegas, Denver, Jefferson City, MO, and Morgantown, WV the stage was set to traverse nearly 2600 miles and 41 hours of driving time. Needless to say the trip would be a lot of open road in a very small and enclosed space. I just hoped that by the end of it I wouldn’t be hitchiking it home.

Los Angeles

My first impression of LA, having never been there before, was nothing if not an odd sense of familiarity. Having so many movies filmed there, it almost seems as if one has been there before, with the palm tree lined streets and wide open 5 lane freeways conjuring images of every movie I’ve ever seen that was filmed in sunny southern California. And sunny it is no doubt, with gorgeous weather and even better beaches. Coming from the East Coast where the humidity has been between 90-100% , the lack of swampiness in the air was quite a welcome relief. The sheer expanse of LA was also noticeable, as it seemed almost impossible to get anywhere without having to hop on a freeway with a million other people. The lack of any sort of real “downtown” are a la New York, Boston, or DC was also something that I had trouble wrapping my head around, but all things considered LA is pretty awesome. While there it was a whirlwind of family 4th of July BBQs, eating lots of food, and doing all the toursity things that must be done upon a virgin visit to any major metropolis such as LA. It is at this time that I would like to extend a special thank you to the family of the Star Spangled Girl for taking me in like family and providing endless hospitality. Thank you for everything.

While in LA we decided to do tours of Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, and Westwood, where I had possibly the best ice cream sandwich on the planet. A quick word about each:

  • Hollywood – As a lover of movies and someone who could carry on an entire conversation based solely in movie quotes, Hollywood was great. We toured the Chinese theater, the Walk of Fame (if only to find Alex Trebek’s star), and Hollywood Blvd. Lots of tourists, lots of shops and lots of hustlers tryin to squeeze a dollar out of 15 cents.
  • Santa Monica  Saw the famous pier, the end of historic Route 66, and played some skee ball at the arcades. Not too shabby.
  • Venice Beach – Ahh the boardwalk at Venice Beach, where I saw the greatest collection of artists, stall hockers, and general weirdos. The kingdom of the eclectic is what I would refer to it as, with everything from hand carved African art to $40 medical marijuana cards all available on a stretch of sandy Boardwalk. Stopped by Muscle Beach to take some pics and Marvel at the athletic endeavors of a couple of rather large men engaged in what YouTube has dubbed the “24 hour prison workout.” The sights, sounds, and especially smells were something I won’t soon forget.

Stay tuned for more from our courageous partner later this week.

BBQ Baby

Although not nearly as cool as Middle Earth, exploring Middle America has been an experience. Turns out there’s a Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and/or Franklin just about everywhere in this country. There’s also a Kansas City, Kansas; Kansas City, Missouri; Kansas, Illinois. You think Americans could be a bit more creative. After 9 hours of staring out at endless plains and fields, Anthony and I took reprieve at Arthur Bryant’s BBQ in Kansas City, Missouri before stopping for the night in Jefferson City.

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On the border between Kansas and Missouri, Kansas City is known for many things, but perhaps most of all, it’s known for BBQ. Travel Channel’s Man v Food showcased two of Kansas City’s finest: Gates and Arthur Bryant’s. We chose to stop at the latter and we weren’t disappointed.

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For just $12.20 you could choose a pound of any combination of their mouthwatering smoked, pulled, juicy, delicious meats. (If you’re reading this, Nick, you’d be in HEAVEN) For my poor pork-hating body, Anthony and I split a half pound of burnt ends and a half pound of beef brisket. On the side we had baked beans and coleslaw. Magnificent would be an understatement. The sides were even so good that Anthony went back up to order another one of each. Meanwhile, I sneakily slopped up the saucey, greasy, fatty remnants of our beef feast from the plate with a slice of white bread.

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Properly protein’d up, we returned to the road…ready for Missouri’s capital, Jefferson City, to meet the future President of the United States.