City Code Snapshot: LIM

There are many compelling reasons to visit Peru, famed for its sky high ruins, ancient cultural traditions, and for bringing the world the potato, but our 25-hour Lima layover leaves scant opportunity to venture beyond the teeming seaside capital.  Mind you, with 43 distinct districts and a population of 7.6 million, and a history stretching back to the sixteenth century, there’s still plenty to see and do in the world’s 40th-largest city.  All of which any guide book from your local library can fill you in on.  If it’s info on sights, tours, and local currency that you seek, get thee to Lonely Planet.com. 

When I’m at work, cities where people live, work, and frolic on vacation are reduced to a series of three-letter codes in the computer that are paired up to tell us where we’re going, what time we’re supposed to get there, and nothing else.  And often that’s all we care about — Tokyo and Toronto are strikingly similar cities when seen from inside an airport hotel room.  Here, in a new Mister Stewardess Feature, City Code Snapshots will occasionally give you a quick glimpse of what stands out to me as the highlight of a given destination when seen through the eyes of working crew, just passing through with little time and even less money.  And since I hardly ever fly international any more, and will probably talk a lot about Iowa in this space, we’ll start big with last week’s trip to Lima. Continue reading

When Worlds Collide (or, “My Favorite Bookstore Layovers”)

Books at Bluestocking, San Diego

You would think that by now I would know better than to pack all of my flying into the can of worms we call “Summer.”  Jam-packed airplanes, glass-ceilinged terminal buildings that simmer like crock pots, unaccompanied kids in droves and cancellations galore, and for some reason, I stack my schedule like I don’t want to miss a single minute of it.  (Santa Fe spas are awesome, after all, but they ain’t free.)   But Summertime flying is a topic for another post.  (Or “series of rants;” we’ll see where that takes us.)  Hard as I’ve been hittin’ it the last couple weeks, though, it hasn’t been all bad.  As I’ve mentioned in posts past, I am a mad fan of the downtown layover, and of all of the diversions they provide, and I have lucked into a few of them lately.  Cute cafes and boys in shorts are but the first two things that leap to mind as being more plentiful and more fun in a City Center than at airport-adjacent lodgings, and my pro-cafe, pro-boys-in-shorts stance is longstanding and unambiguous.  But last week, on an unexpected and uncommon trip with not one but two downtown layovers, I reconnected, at long last, with one of the best things about being a writer who flies: America’s Bookstores. Continue reading

Forty Things I Never Would Have Gotten to Do (Part II)

“Aloha” from the Biggest Pool in Hawaii!

So, I’m in the elevator in my hotel in Oklahoma City this morning, en route to the lobby, and the elevator stops on the third floor.  In piles a gang of about seven kids, all around eight or nine, who are running amok in the hotel the way eight- or nine-year-olds will (is there anything quite as thrilling as a hotel elevator at that age?).  Their leader, a curly-haired girl in glasses, decrees the second floor to be next on their itinerary, so it’s not ten seconds later that the doors open again and the gang swarms off.  Just before she leaps off the elevator to assume command of the second floor recon, their leader stops.  Leaning against the elevator door so that it cannot close, she turns to me and asks, “Are you a pilot?”

“Flight attendant,” I tell her.

“Oh, a flight attendant,” she repeats.  “So you go from hotel to hotel all over the place?”

“Well, yeah,” I say.

She cocks her head, considering this.  I usually wear my uber-neutral Passenger Face in hotels, too, when I’m in my uniform, but perhaps it’s not quite as neutral as I imagine, cuz this nine-year-old girl reads it like a billboard.  “It gets old, huh?”

I laugh and say “sometimes” to the closing elevator door.  Her investigation concluded, she scampers off to explore the great unknown of the second floor, and I ride to the lobby, then trudge off to the airport van.

And now I’m in another hotel in another city, and have just hung up the phone from talking to my husband, who thought I was going to be home tonight.  He’s bummed out that I’m not coming home, which bums me out, and this is one of the main ways that going from hotel to hotel all over the place gets old — it’s less the hotels themselves and more the time spent away from home.  Away from the kitties and from waking up next to my husband and from good coffee that doesn’t cost $3 a cup.  But I’ve had loads of fun at hotels, too, with this job  — fancy ones, tacky ones; waterfront hotels and downtown high-rises and sprawling off-brand complexes miles from nowhere.  And so, in keeping with my effort to highlight the fun (or at least funny) parts of this gig, and having been called out this very day by a nine-year-old for wearing my oh-so-over-it heart on my sleeve, I dedicate Part Two of our Forty Things I (probably) Never Would Have Gotten to Do If It Wasn’t For My Airline Job feature to hotel adventures!

30. Skinny dip in the largest pool in the Hawaiian Islands on Kauai

29. Crash the very grand luau at the Grand Wailea on Maui

28. Sling trays for three legs on a 727 with the whole sweaty crew smelling like the gym after our hotel in Louisville, Kentucky ran out of water

27. Cross “Sleep with a Pilot” off of my “Now That I’m a Flight Attendant” To-Do List in Reno, Nevada

26. Be pampered by a Japanese toilet

25. Attend the Great Midwestern Polka Festival poolside at our Chicago layover hotel instead of sleeping (an option ruled out by the Great Midwestern Polka Festival poolside) after an all-nighter

24. Re-enact a Brady Bunch episode after putting (Body Shop Satsuma Orange, I remember for some reason) bubbles in a hot tub in Las Vegas

23. Be an audience member at a real-life Newlywed Game at an airport Holiday Inn in Hartford (“Grand” Prize for the Winning Couple: one night at an airport Holiday Inn in Hartford.)

22. Stay at a Fairmont

21. Be asked, along with the rest of my crew, to leave a wedding reception in a New Jersey hotel, only to welcome the newlyweds aboard our flight the very next morning.  We showered them with champagne and our best wishes, and, as was so often the case back in those days, a good time was had by all.  Now there’s an extra fee for that.

Sakura Rain

Yellow Umbrella from The Java Jive (.com)

It’s Springtime, and if you live in a place that has seasons, you will by now have noticed that things are coming, at last, to life.  I’m probably a little late to sing the praises of the actual cherry blossoms — they’re only at their peak for a very few days — but the array of flowering trees here in Denver reminds me of one of my very first trips to Japan.  I had been to Narita, of course, as all good flight attendants eventually must, but this was my first Osaka trip.  I had just finished reading Memoirs of a Geisha like two weeks before, and was dying to see the Gion district in Kyoto, a short train ride away.  It was April, so I sold one of my flying partners on the prospect of a cherry blossom photo safari, and shortly after breakfast, we set out.

This was well before I got to know My Kyoto: the Kyoto of the World’s Largest hundred yen store and the all-you-can-drink Karaoke Room; of Starbucks and stick-pics and the Shakey’s corn-and-mayonnaise pizza buffet.  My wacky romance with Japan was barely budding, and the whole country still struck me as a different Universe.  Oddly parallel to ours, with its Toyotas and vending machines and smiling people, but hopelessly — perhaps purposely — indecipherable.  While we walked through ultra-modern Kyoto to get there, my memories of that day are all of Gion.  Its wooden houses surely bursting with geishas and other ancient secrets, its tunnels of cherry trees sprinkling the streets with their blossoms as dutifully as the earnest little flower girl that makes the wedding of a friend of a friend surprisingly memorable.  Continue reading

Men at Work?

Art imitating Life as it occasionally will, much of the fun in my novel Kiss Me, Straight takes place when a gang of flight attendants is turned loose on Sydney, Australia.  The beer flows, men chunder…

I flew international out of San Francisco for the first ten years of my career, and, like most of the gay guys, I loved flying Sydney and leapt at every opportunity to do so.  Nights like this were a big reason why:

You’ll know this story is from a while back, because it opens with me at the gym.  With three other flight attendants on a Sydney layover, mind you; I had mostly gone along to be sociable.  I think we were all a little surprised by quite how sociable our little outing turned out. Continue reading