City Code Snapshot: YVR

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If this all sounds familiar, it’s hopefully because you remember this post from last year, and not because all my posts about flying sound the same (although I suppose that would be its own commentary on the nature of the gig these days…).  I’m reposting this Rhapsody in Blue and Green about my favoritest of all airports for the benefit of those among you who may wonder why (or, for that matter, how) I set my upcoming erotic romance almost entirely on Vancouver International Airport property.  You Again? is a short, sexy love story about When Henry Met Zack that gets kinda hot kinda right away.  Sure, to the casual reader, it’s about sex, it’s about expectations, and it’s about beauty and the eye of the beholder.  But if it’s True Romance you’re looking for, remember: Greater love hath no man than a flight attendant for his favorite airport. 

YVR totemWhen last I featured a City Code Snapshot, it was of our isolated airport layover in Houston.  I am a frequent and vocal critic of — OK, whiner about — lengthy airport layovers and their high boredom factor, as you will by now have noticed.  Thus I feel like there is a certain amount of poetic justice in the fact that my very favorite of all airport layovers — the one for which I single-mindedly bid to the exclusion of any other factor, and for which I shamelessly whore myself on the trade board — is in one of the most glittering and glamorous cities in North America.

I don’t care if I never see downtown Vancouver on a layover again, as long as we continue to luxuriate in these posh airport digs, and from me that’s pretty big talk.  The five-star hotel is not just attached to the airport, but is perched feet from the USA Departures terminal, and the view from the relaxation chamber that other hotels might try to pass off as a mere “room” is very often of the airplane that has delivered you there.  But not to worry: if this reminder of your fast-approaching a.m. departure threatens to foul your mood, the blinds are easily closed, noiselessly and automatically, at the push of a button beside your comfy bed.  Continue reading

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City Code Snapshot: PIT

Cinnamon NeedsAs you know, I do love my downtown layovers (oh God, this again?).  Largely because I love to go out and get coffee and look at cute boys on them (oh God, this again??).  Today’s sojourn to the South Side of Pittsburgh handily satisfied these cravings.  (As well as all my cinnamon needs.)

I’ve been to Pittsburgh before, but it’s been ages since I’ve been off the airport property, where we used to layover.  I have great memories of coming here fifteen (+) years ago with one great friend to visit another.  We bowled in a dinky upstairs bowling alley and rode the incline and I acquired my yellow souvenir mug from Beehive Coffee.  I sipped from it just the other day, in fact, little suspecting that I would ever visit Beehive again.  Much less in two days, thanks to the (often well-hidden) beauty of Life on Reserve.  Heck, I was just glad the place was still in business, as it would give me a reason to get out of bed and get out of my hotel room, in whose comfort it is sometimes tempting to stay ensconced after a 3-leg 13-hour day.

You can always tell you’re in a place where everybody drives everywhere when the front desk clerk admits that she’s lived there her whole life and can’t tell you the best way to walk to a bridge that’s eight blocks from her job.  But walking around it is the only way to get a feel for a place — you’ve been in the backseat of one taxi cab, you’ve seen ’em all.  It’s by moving through a city’s streets on your feet that you can peruse the architecture, the accent, and the lunch specials.   That you stumble upon bookstores run by eccentric old men of the kind you fear (and hope) you’ll become, or upon rugby teams from local universities raffling off dates with toothsome players to passersby (which I, alas, did not win.).  After suggesting multiple alternatives to walking (a cab, the T, she might have muttered something about hitchhiking), my pal at the front desk was able to unearth and (skeptically) provide me with a map, and off I went, across the Monongahela (which I mention mostly to carpe the diem of having the opportunity to drop a cool riparian place name  like “Monongahela”) into a gorgeous fall day. 

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Writing Exercise/City Code Snapshot: SNA

greetings-from-orange-county-californiaHey gang!  So today we’re going to try something a little different, and use (slightly more than a thousand) words instead of a picture to offer a snapshot of the Orange County layover.  Partly, yes, because I neglected to take a picture while I was there yesterday, but also because I used my one Orange County Outing as a writing prompt, the results of which I am moved to foist upon an unsuspecting public share.

The sun-soaked oceanfront county of Orange is home to 3 million people.  It encompasses such scenic byways as Laguna Beach, San Juan Capistrano, and Tomorrowland, and boasts a glamorous mall and a very manageable airport named after the man who shot Liberty Valance.  It is, in other words, as depicted on this-here postcard, probably delightful as a vacation hot spot; at the very least, judging by all of the dernier-cri sportsters zooming along the 12-lane surface streets, it is a great place to get rich selling really expensive cars.  And, as is often the case in this post-fun day and age of flying, we see none of that.  No Laguna art galleries or Capistrano swallows for these crews; rather, we lay over in an airport-adjacent business park close to a fountain, a few drastically trimmed shrubs, and bugger all else.  If you are firm in your resolve to get coffee, however — and you know how in this arena my resolve does not waver — you can walk 3/4 of a mile, take your life in your hands crossing the hugest intersection in Southern California, and get you a Starbucks.

Which is of course what I did yesterday.  Having collapsed onto my bed at something of an early hour the night before, I was up and at them, and rolled up at the Starbucks at like a quarter to nine.  A stone’s throw from the Southern California headquarters of every company in America that has a Southern California headquarters, this particular Starbucks was jammed.  Men in suits, women in heels, everyone on their way to work or getting a jump on the first meeting of the day, everyone talking, either into their phones or at each other.  The baristas were rushed off their feet, friendly and loud.  And over here along the wall, as is apparently required by some bylaw in company policy at every Starbucks location, sat the Guy Working on His Laptop.  I was like, Really?  This is where you’re going to come to try and get some work done?  I myself have a crippling fear of being perceived as a posturing Look At Me! douche anytime I so much as refer to my laptop in public, and so naturally I judge others harshly against this standard that I hate having applied to my own self, you know how we do.  But then I caught myself doing it — which is much less rewarding than just blithely judging people and getting on with your day, as you know — and reminded myself, You don’t know this dude’s story at all.  And, because I prefer to think of myself as someone who Knows It All, I remedied that by sitting — on a lovely patio chaise, but still — at the very same Starbucks amidst the very same distracting crowd, and writing (it hurts from the irony, I know), and deciding that his story is this: Continue reading

City Code Snapshot: SMF

SMF reclining buddhaI never even considered smaller, regional airlines when I decided to take to the skies.  In my mind, a Flying Career should look more like Paris and Hong Kong than Peoria and Hartford, and for a while, mine did.  Boy watching in Sydney, boy watching in London, boy watching in Taipei — yes, mine was a glamorous life.  Since coming home to Denver a few years ago — quite by choice, I should add, and with no regrets — my gig is straight domestic all the time, and sometimes that career looks funny to me.  The places you end up that you would never choose to go!  But somebody chooses to go there, and the airline you work for chooses to take them there, and so you find yourself abroad in the streets of places like Sacramento.

Rather unassuming for the capital city of a place like California, and kind of in the middle of nowhere, on the surface, a Sacramento layover has limited appeal.  If I must fly domestic, I want New York City!  I want Seattle!  Come on, at least Vegas.  But then this morning, out in the sunny downtown streets of Sac (with my scuffed up pedicure), I realized I quite like it here.  This part of downtown, near the capitol, is awash with public art and little cafes.  (And there’s palm trees!)  Because it’s where California’s business gets done (or, well, should be getting done), people are out.  Men with big butts in business suits, women with big lattes in splashy sundresses, groups of scrapbooking conventioneers, and that cute skinny hipster kid over there watching me take pictures.  Of course there’s a Starbucks and a Subway, but little Mom & Pop businesses abound.  The Thai food is delicious, my fave coffee spot doubles as a nightclub, and the Romanian/Hungarian/Greek soup place has a line out the door.

We all have our spots.  For me, the Capitol Garage is a must for a successful SMF layover.

We all have our spots. For me, the Capitol Garage is a must for a successful SMF layover.

Half a million people live in Sacramento — I get that it’s not some little backwater burgh.  But it’s always funny to me to come to a place that’s completely off my radar and see that life thrives in its kajillion ways.  I am reminded (constantly) of just how big the world is.  Just how many people live in it and find ways to make their mark. Through their art, their soup, or their coffee.  Even when you travel it with your eyes wide open, you only ever see specks of the world; you catch fleeting glimpses of the wonders of life in this Universe.  We had a long day of flying yesterday, and today holds Chicago in store, an operational black hole for my airline as for so many others; I was gonna need at least a glimpse of the wonders of the Universe to be able to face this day.  And I got it.  From a cute skinny hipster kid in Sacramento, of all places.

Seoul: A Model Layover

seoul beautiesBefore I started flying, I knew next to nothing about Korea.  I knew there were two of them, and I kind of knew why, and everything else I knew I gleaned either from Margaret Cho’s stand up or from reruns of M*A*S*H.  I arrived in Seoul for the first time with few expectations, vowing only not to be taken in by the senior flight attendants who were trying to get me to make an ass of myself by walking into this back-alley restaurant and asking to be served something called Beep ‘n’ Bop, as if I don’t recognize a made-up food item when I hear one.  (Why don’t you order it, if it so exists?  P.S. – It does, and it’s do-it-yourself delicious, once you get the hang of flat chopsticks.)  I was immediately sold on Seoul, and it endures as one of my favorite layover cities (albeit one that I no longer see).

In A Model Romance, Bridger and Kai’s very different experiences in Korea eventually and unexpectedly bring them together in San Francisco.  To celebrate Seoul, and the upcoming release (Sunday, March 10th) of the story it helped inspire me to write, today’s Special Edition City Code Snapshot will feature five of my favorite things about Seoul. Continue reading