Friday, February 16, 2007

Trains, Planes and Automobiles...and buses. OR... My Escape from New York.

Ah yes, another trip to New York City's Toy Fare has come and gone and man was it a doozie!

But before I talk about the time spent in New York, (see next blog entry) I want to recount the absolute horror of trying to leave the Big Apple after a winter weather system pounded the entire northeastern United States. I've been to NY City three times during the winter and all three times it has snowed. Last year was a record snow fall for Manhatten and this year was the first snow fall of the winter. It's me...I'm sure it's me.

Indeed, we knew the icy mess was coming, but due to scheduling issues (again...see next entry), we couldn't schedule a flight out of NY until Wednesday morning. That proved to be our travel undoing.

We were leaving the Transformers movie media event on Tuesday night and the snow had already begun to fall. While the forcast had indeed projected winter weather, there much uncertainty as to how the system would track. Back at the hotel we had some last minute web work to do as key people wanted a report of the event online ASAP.

Brian (the boss man) and I finally turned in around 12:30 AM with plans to leave on a 5:15 AM shuttle for the airport. Our flight wasn't until 9:10 AM, but the concierge advised we not wait for the 6:15 shuttle. The weather situation was still somewhat mild at that point and calls to the airline confirmed that our flight was still a 'go'. So, we were up at 4:30 AM and downstairs at 5:15 and shortly on the shuttle to the airport.

We checked in, had a quick breakfast snack at the gate and waited. Boarding time was at 8:45 AM and as the hour approached, there was no airplane outside. Uh oh. Within moments the announcement came that the 9:10 flight to DFW was cancelled. We quickly rebooked a flight into Pittsburgh with a change and then on to Dallas. The new departure was scheduled for 3:30 PM – six hours later! We retreived our checked baggage, re-checked it for the new flight and wentthrough security for the second time. Again we waited.

The sleet fell like heavy rain or thick icy tears from some bitterly sad ice giant as we sat in the food court lunching on Wendy's burgers and trying to get a WiFi connection. We headed to the new gate and I had a very bad feeling about the whole thing. I sometimes hate being right. 3:30 came and the flight was moved to a 4:00 and a new gate. Before we could make it to the NEW gate,our flight was cancelled again. It became clear that American Airlines wasleading people around by the nose. I know these flights should have been cancelled for safety reasons and due to other delays in the region, but Ifeel sure the call could be made sooner or at least annouced earlier. With these types of last minute cancellations, options become fewer and fewer. I think they WANT people to stay and wait lest they lose revenue. Hence,the late coming information.

The time had come to take another course of action. American was projecting no flights to DFW until Saturday or Sunday.We had to get back to the office and so a plan was hatched. We reasoned we needed to go south and get out of NY and the white cold stuff. The roads were a skating rink at this point for miles in all directions and so we got train tickets to...Norfolk, Virginia! From there we would catch an ice free flight to Dallas. It was not a bad plan considering the severity of the circumstances, but we had to go back to the city and wait for the train which departed at 3:00 AM Thursday morning!

It was cold in the big city that night,my friend, as we trod the slush laden concrete paths that lined the streets. 3 0'clock in the morning was like a distant vision. We headed to Penn Station, got our tickets and checked some of our bags for later pickup. We found solace in an Irish pub that we had visited earlier in the week and had dinner there. We both had the Shepherd's Pie (mmmm...comfort food). After we ate, we killed a little time at a Borders Books, but the luggage check closed at 10PM so we had to be back at the station to get our bags before then. Bags again in hand, we settled into the waiting area for the Amtrak train service. There was an amazing number of people there and it stayed that way until we left. Mixed liberally into the crowd were several crazy people. Not less that two people there were engaged in what I am now calling a "solo dialogue". One gentleman was going on about how God took Anna Nicole Smith's life and that Britney Spears was next. I was braced for anything, but luckily nothing untoward happened. We watched Fantastic Four on a laptop. Jessica Alba is pretty and in that, there was some small comfort.

I had been calling home with each change in our travel circumstances and realizing I had missed Valentine's Day completely, I took a quick pic of myself making the sign for "I love you" and sent it to my wife's e-mail. She teaches sign language to kids and I knew that the image of my fatigued face and a simple universal gesture would say everything that needed to be said.

3 AM came and we finally boarded the train. It was a ride that took us through DC, over frozen lakes and lasted over eight hours, as there were delays and stops along the way.Chatty women in the seats in front of us kept me awake, but we finally managed to sleep a little – especially after our car became mostly empty in DC. Wearrived in Newport News, Virginia and then took a 30 minute bus ride on into Norfolk. Our flight to DFW was set to depart at 6:20 PM. We found a place to eat and had a steak to fortify ourselves. We then took a taxi to the airport only to be met with another delay due to ground traffic backups in Dallas caused by the same winter weather we were fleeing. We took off an hour lateand flew 3.5 hours to DFW. Another hour later, Brian was dropping me off at my house.

I hadn't slept in a bed for over 40 hours with only four hours of sleep prior. I had been away from home just 8 hours short of an entire week. I was nearly delirious, but I was SO very happy to be home. I had begun to wonder if I would ever get back. Once inside the door, I shared a long embrace with two wonderful children and one beautiful woman. God be praised.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

New York on the horizon...

Well it seems I'll be off to New York again in the not too distant future and it occured to me that I had done a fairly poor job of chronicaling my 2006 New York adventure. I don't wish to bore anyone with a lengthy story, so instead I'll offer a bullet list of highlights for the sake of posterity. Some of this is recounted in a previous post.

* Arrived in New York city taking a long train ride from the Airport.Got on the subway. It smelled really bad.

* Got off the subway 10 blocks from the hotel and walked the rest of the way. It was very cold.

* Went to dinner with Brian and Buddy. This was the fabled 'meat restaurant' of an earlier post. Checked out Toys R Us with escalators, a full size animatronic T-rex and an indoor Ferris wheel.

* Saw Spamalot (see earlier post). Heading up to the balcony, we ran into someone from Hasbro by chance. I felt as though Rod Serling was peering at us from around a corner.

* The next day, we had brunch with Tina and headed off to the Statue of Liberty. I talked to some Scottish guys about G.I. Joe. It was very, very cold.

* Had dinner in Little Italy with a unique assortment of non-sequiter folk. A girl bit a bananna at a nearby table.

* There was a massive snow storm. It was the largest snowfall ever recorded on Manhattan. The next day we all headed off to Toy Fair at the Javits Center.

* Went to the reception at Diamond Comics. Free sushi. Too many bodies.

* Headed over to the Toy Asylum party at a dance Club built in a old church. They had go-go dancers dressed in Speed Racer-centric outfits. One girl was from Atlanta and normally worked a PR job. She seemed like a nice girl.

* Left with a friend of John Waterhouse who was like Jackie Martling from the old Howard Stern show. He was pretty funny, but I have seldom heard so much profanity from one person.'Jackie' grabbed the back of a cab after we parked and 'ice skated' down a New York street. No one died.

* We went to a bar and I drank Red Bull. After being asked, I talked about Jesus Christ and the Bible with 'Jackie'. He listened intently. He REALLY wanted to know my beliefs and why I held them. It was a VERY unexpected moment and something quite uplanned by me.

* Headed over to another bar called 'Jekyll and Hyde' with an all horror movie deco. It is an amazing place with classic horror movie photos and full size elaborate props all over. There were alligators in the sewer.

* Another day at Toy Fair. We took lots of pics for the internet. Brian and I went to the Letterman TV show taping that afternoon. It was cool to see Letterman in person. TV studios / theaters always seem bigger on the tube. And it's true, they keep the Ed Sullivan theater at about 60 degrees during the taping. I saw the O'Jays perform 'Love Train'.

* The next day, we Met Barry Kay (long time GIJOE enthusiast) for breakfast and then headed back to Toy Fair. Later that day we left for the airport.

* Arrived at DFW exhausted. I got sick. If I left out anything, I'll add it later.

I'm not sure if this conveys what a magical mystery tour it really was. Oh well. I wonder what the 2007 trip will yield?