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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Fifteen Years and I’m Still Serving Time

The Great and Powerful Pearl Bailey’s hilarious song (please listen and enjoy above) is about marriage, of course, but I’ve always had kind of a bad-boyfriend relationship with my airline.  Yesterday, April 4th, marked my fifteenth anniversary of flying, and, except for the part about us having kids together (god forbid), this song is me and my job in a nutshell.

Nobody panic: this is not yet another post about how good things used to be compared to how crappy they are now.  It is a different job than the one I interviewed for, and certainly than the one I envisioned when I started fifteen years ago.  I never thought we’d still be on reserve; I certainly never thought I’d be flying straight domestic; and I actively vowed for the first several years of my career that, come what may, the one certainty in the Universe was that I would never — ever, do you hear me? — be based in Denver.  Like a budget airline, Life takes us to unexpected places. Continue reading

Forty Things I Never Would Have Gotten to Do (Part IV: The Big Finish)

We love fritopies!

Today I turn forty, lying in the loving arms of our favorite Santa Fe spa.  We’re big on Landmark Birthdays around here.  We went to Hawaii for Jared’s 30th last year, and I won sixty nickles (!) in Las Vega$ on my 21st, once upon a time.  Oh, the plans we had for my fortieth: we were going to go to Australia.  To France.  On a cruise!  To Buenos Aires.  On a really glamorous cruise!!  We fly for free, after all; the possibilities were endless.  And yet, free flights were kind of what steered us towards Santa Fe.  Mind you, we’ll go pretty much anywhere to soak in hot water (I’ve gone as far as Iceland and New Zealand for no other reason); we love New Mexican food (stuffed sopapillas!  Frito pie!); and there’s a Trader Joe’s on the way out of town — try finding one of those in Paris.  But Santa Fe became the Official Choice when I realized that what I didn’t want to do with the Longest Day of the Year was spend it sitting around an airport, fingers crossed, hoping to get on an airplane.  Flights are too full, airports are hectic, and, like, I go through a TSA checkpoint every day for work — it’s definitely not my idea of a good time on my days off.  I mean, if one of the hot ones would come over and frisk you, that would at least be something…

So we drove here, in Jared’s little yellow car, and we can do whatever we want on our own schedule and take home all the Trader Joe’s-brand liquids we can cram in the car.  And, as is so often the case, taking a step back from My Airline Life, even if only for a few days, helps me view it through the slightly rose-tinted lens of Appreciation.  An important perspective, you’ll agree, when curating the last ten items to be included in our series,

Forty Things I (probably) Never Would Have Gotten to Do If It Wasn’t For My Airline Job:

10. Run amok in Sydney, a city to which I never worked a trip that I didn’t hope would be my last — every layover a race against the clock to find the situation (read: the Boy) that would entice me to stay forever

9.Upgrade a big fat guy to First Class when the person next to him demanded — loudly, for the benefit of the entire airplane — that I do something about the fact that he had to sit next to a big fat guy

8. Get in honest-to-god trouble (like, there’s a write-up in my file) from another grown man for wearing argyle socks

7. Accost and adore the delightfully chatty and warm Bonnie Raitt after upgrading her to First Class on a flight from London to San Francisco

6. Be tenderized like meat in a Shanghai massage parlor

5. Stock my stationery drawer at the World’s Largest Hundred Yen Store

4. Watch the men play Beach Volleyball (hubba hubba) during the Sydney Olympics

3. Hike to the top of the Great Wall of China in the middle of the night in the pitch black all by myself

2. Be approached by a psychic on an airplane and assured that I could pursue my passion without fear, and thus

1. Write a book inspired, in part, by the people I’ve met, places I’ve been, and things I’ve seen at this wacky gig.  Kiss Me, Straight chronicles the (mis)adventures of a lovelorn flight attendant as he chases a romance with his sexy-but-straight crush around the world, and it’s comin’ at ya from JMS Books later this year.  I never could have written this particular story were it not for this Big Career, and I might be more grateful for that opportunity than for any of the others.  I hope, come November, that it’ll put a few smiles on your face, too.