Sunday, December 26, 2010

Twas the Day after Christmas.....
As we left Europe I handed the Dutch officer my passport for inspection. He looked at it and with a Dutch accent said, "How Yea'll doink?" He looked through the pages to find a blank space to stamp, which is not easy given the number of times I have traveled out of the country in the last five years.  After stamping the page he said, "Howdy"which came out more like *Whoody* and he said it like it was the expression for goodbye. It took me a minute to realize that the passport correctly lists Texas as my birth place.  The immigration officer was doing his best Cowboy for me, and I almost missed it.
This is a picture I took of the Brandenburg Gate from what used to be the East side of Berlin. It was very pretty lit up with the Christmas tree in front and snow all around.  It looks like the picture was taken in the early evening, but it was actually about 3:00pm.  The sun doesn't come up in Berlin until 9:30am and starts setting about 4:00pm and by 5:30 it is full blown darkness.  It makes all the Christmas lights of the city more enjoyable.
As for our luggage, no word since the German delivery man called my son to tell him the bags were on the way to his apartment, while we were on the way to the airport. The fact that the bags made it to Berlin and had been found is not in the record that the magic tracking number was supposed to log.  In fact we are getting forms emailed from the Airline to fill out so we can file a claim.  According to the records the bags are still missing and have been since Dec 16th. I suppose on Monday I will have to make my rounds calling to see what news there is.  Sandi and I leave for a New Years Eve Cruise on Wednesday and I doubt we will know anything definitive about the bags before then.  
Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. I know the New Year will be full of surprises and opportunities.
As you were,

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Life has a sense of humor that can not be denied. Most of the time we are too close to see that what happens to us is a cosmic joke, a prank to make us smile, or to show us that the events of our lives are not so serious or tragic as we think, or maybe just to help us evaluate what is really important.
After seven days without our luggage Sandi and I have gotten used to the idea of never seeing those "things" it contained again. We were most upset that the Christmas gifts we brought to our son did not arrive. One of his German friends suggested, in broken English, that the "Christmas Man" - his translation of Santa Claus- had stolen the luggage to keep us from usurping his duty to deliver the presents on Christmas Eve.
But, the lack of personal effects did not keep us from experiencing the sites of Berlin or impede the joy of seeing our son. His grasp of the language, culture and mythology, that is Berlin, becomes infectious and, for his father and mother, lovingly overwhelming at times. In fact the lack of personal property was freeing in some ways. We had everything we needed. We had what we came for, time with our son in his adopted city.
So there was sadness when the time came this morning for us to go to the airport for our third and last time. The snow was melting a little causing the walk to the bus to become more slick and treacherous than usual. Even the streets of Berlin were trying to keep us from going away. Our son's cell phone rang and he answered it with his German hello. After a brief conversation he ended the call. I am accustomed to waiting his German conversation is over to get the English translation. The call was from Tegel Airport calling to say that our bags had been found and they were ready to be delivered. If they had kept them at the airport we could have picked them up when we arrived a few minutes later, but the bags were on a truck headed for the apartment we had just left. Our Son told them to deliver the bags to our home in California. The man said it would take a couple of days.
There won't be an end to this story until our bags arrive in LA and the belated gifts arrive in Berlin, but the moral is clear: important things can not be lost in travel nor delayed by weather and certainly can not be contained in a suitcase.
Merry night before the night before Christmas,

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day six of trying to cope with the coldest winter in German on record and doing it without any luggage. My advice to any traveler is avoid KLM Dutch Airlines if at all possible, especially traveling through Amsterdam. Now suddenly everyone seems to know that KLM is notorious for being hard to contact, and Amsterdam is a notorious for canceling flights and losing luggage, especially in the winter. Where was this information in the weeks before when we were booking this trip. While KLM's in flight service was very nice, once on the ground they become invisible. As flights were cancelled and we became separated from our luggage, we were told to "simply" call Customer Service and they would deliver our bags anywhere we needed them. Unfortunately, the phone numbers do not ring through, or are constantly busy, and not open 24 hours, nor weekends. When we finally did get through, on day five, the automated system instructed us to consult the website and disconnected. The website crashed and then we were told to contact the airlines through Facebook or Twitter. I am not joking, Twitter.
I finally resorted to calling American Express Global services to get some help. They could not get through to KLM either, but did find out that we needed to go to the Berlin Airport in person to file a report. We traveled the hour to the airport. After an hour wait and with our son there to translate we were given a form to fill out and told to fax it. Then we would be given a tracking number for our case. How would we get the number? We would have to call.
After several days of the same phone treatment we decided to go back out to the airport and actually find a human.
Another hour trip and we were directed to the Global Berlin Baggage service down stairs in the airport, where there was a line with a two hour wait to see a human. After an hour we discover that the line we were instructed to wait in was for Luftansa not KML. We switched lines to start the two hour wait clock all over again.
Hours of waiting time later we were allowed to meet with a human who substituted the Z sound for an S when she spoke. She said they had never received the fax and we needed to start all over. We finally got a tracking number, no luggage and no idea on when we would get it but we got the magic number. The only thing that was determined was that when we leave Berlin in two days, they would stop trying to get the luggage to our address here and send it to California.
Here is the bottom line. The inconvenience of not having our luggage is nothing compared to the stress, inconvenience and anxiety of trying to get KLM to look for our luggage. My wife and I both wanted a holiday we would never forget, well, be careful what you wish for.... We will certainly never forget this one. The saga continues.
As you were,

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Winter in Europe
We are here in Berlin with my son. We do not have our luggage and were were two days late after being stuck in the Amsterdam airport for about a day and a half due to a snow storm. I'm glad I like the shirt I am wearing I've had it on for four days now. The airlines were not good at giving out information in any language. The forms to fill out were in Dutch, and the Information lines were jammed. No flights, we finally had to take a train to Berlin and were lucky to get it. More later as the saga continues.

On a totally different subject. Here is a comment that I got from my last post. The one with the vent movie poster painting:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "As you were, Jay":

there is a signature and Copyright mark so jay please post the info about where this came from... illustrators work very hard - hopefully no future bookings will use part of this for posters/press/website etc.

Posted by Anonymous to THE WORLD IS A STAGE at 2:01 PM

I don't know who anonymous is but they are not up to the usual intelligence of my average blog readers, and the fact that they would snipe with invisibility is not appreciated. Two things:
If "they" had actually seen the copyright they would have known that the signature is mine as is then copyright. The illustration is mine, I drew it, it is from my own art files and I will use it in whatever way I want to. What hurts the most is that whomever "they" are assumes that I would not credit another artist's work or would not be capable of creating that art myself. Next time Anonymous, get your facts straight, and be brave enough to leave your name.

As you were,

Monday, December 13, 2010

Traffic Event
There are several routes to get through the mountains from the Valley to the West Side in LA.  One is the 405 Freeway which needs to be avoided for short trips.  The other routes are canyon roads, two lane paths that wind through the hills to the other side.  The roads twist and turn and with the right car it is a very exciting drive at just a little over the 35 mph speed limit, say 50. It is better than a roller coaster ride at Magic Mountain.
Today I found the need to make that trip over Coldwater Canyon to Beverly Hills. Tis the season after all. I am in a BMW so I have the right car, and the morning drive traffic is gone.  Just me and the road, for a moment, I feel like an Indy driver on Memorial day. That is until I come upon an old model Volvo creeping along at 20 mph.   The ancient driver is driving way under the speed limit, breaking for every turn and wiggle in the road and yielding to imaginary wild life crossings.  To let him know that I am behind him, as is the custom in LA, I crowd him a little.  It is the signal we all agree on that says, share the road and at least drive the speed limit.  This driver obviously does not speak auto.  He continues to coast and break and yield to the frustration of anyone behind him.
Soon I am not the only driver who is frustrated.  There are six cars behind me that are thinking the same thing I am... why is this guy driving like he is from Florida?  Once again I crowd his back bumper.  (Honking is a NYC tradition that is rarely use on this coast).  The rule is once five cars are being blocked by a very slow driver, that slow driver should pull over and let the traffic by.  Again, this driver, "no speaka" nor "knowa the rules".
The parade slows to a funeral march. Lined up behind me is another BMW, a Lamborghini, a Porche, and three cars I can't put a make on.  The Lamborghini is having trouble going 20 mph, it idles faster than that.  The driver guns the engine just to keep it running.  It is a loud sound but the Volvo is unfazed.
 I give the driver the benefit of the doubt, one more time, thinking that he is just unaware of the commuter crises he is causing us.  I politely ride his back bumper again,  he shoots me the finger and hits his breaks.  I am able to stop in plenty of time as are all the others in the long line.  That is when I realize that this guy knows that he is leading a long line of pissed off drivers through the Canyon and doesn't care.  As he creeps ahead of me his personalized licence plates read,  "STA BAC"
As you were,

Monday, December 06, 2010

Building a stone henge are we?

Eddie Izzard does a routine on stone henge that is very funny to me. As some ancient Druids are carving on stone a couple of neighbors pass by. Looking up at the activity they say, "Building a stone henge are we?...It's very nice."
Eddie Izzard would be one of my favorite performers even if he wasn't the one who gave me a Tony on stage at Radio City Music Hall. Thanks Eddie.
I was thinking of you when I painted this.
As you were,

Friday, December 03, 2010

Very different from what I usually paint... not a drop of blood in the entire piece.

As you were,
More Mind Fertilizer
I think that it represents more an example of obsessive compulsive disorder than actual talent, here is my new submission into the world of: "What did you do last week?"

There is one interesting thing involving my trip back from Acapulco. There are two things that are "given" in this story. As the lawyers would say we stipulate to these pertinent facts.
First, I don't like the TSA in general. I think they are the lowest level of Rent-a-Cop and now with the new groping procedures they are allowed to administer I feel more invaded and like the TSA even less. And... I don't feel safer because of the intrusion.
Second, I don't like to fly in Mexico. Since there is less Xray equipment and technology in most of the airports they rely on manual inspections. It is not always Manuel sometimes Manuellita. The point is, airport inspections are much more personally invasive in Mexico it is up close and personal: "Meester, cwould jew stan like thees with jour harms hup." On the street it is a robbery, at the airport it is security.
With those two facts in mind here is my saga.
I was searched at the dock by the Manuel at customs. My luggage was searched at the ticket counter when I arrived at the airport. I had to go through the metal detector and xray before getting to the gate. At the gate three more Manuels looked in my carry on bags and did a pat down.
Changing plans in Mexico City meant I had to go back through security, and was frisked by two different sets of TSAitos before boarding my final flight home to LA. Just part of the job, and the excitement of going home got me through it.
After 6 hours we landed at LAX Airport, and as I step into the jet way there is a Homeland security agent watching people get off the plane. He stops my egress and culls me out of the herd, "Could you step over here for just one second sir.... just put you bag down."
I can't tell you what I was thinking because the vocabulary of curses in my head is not a language that any one understands but me. Just know I was thinking words so derogatory they couldn't even be vocalized. But in my truly dysfunctional passive aggressive way what came out was, "Certainly officer."
The man looked me in the eye and said, "Just around the corner we have a drug dog." (My Inner dialogue: "Okay jack wad, what has that got to do with me.") He continues,
"And I wonder if you would mind giving us a hand." (Inner dialogue: "Why don't you go cavity search a baboon, Dick Tracy." ---- Outer dialogue: "Why, certainly officer."
He continues, "I would like to hide some drugs on you and see if the dog can find them? He is new and being trained to work crowds." How many times do they tell you not to take things from strangers at the airport. Here is a guy actually asking me to mule drugs and instead of yelling for the cops, he is a government cop. I said, "As long as the next officer knows that the drugs are yours not mine... okay." He really didn't answer that statement directly, but by that time several witnesses have seen me talking to the guy, he has a uniform...and I am so tired from flying I'm stupid.
He takes what looks like a chamois pouch out of a baggie and stuffs it in my sock. He takes my carry on saying, "I don't want this to get in the dogs way." and then the blow-off, "Don't stop until an officer tells you to stop." Those last words are the ones that hang in my rational brain as I continue on what is now not a normal journey for me.
At the terminal before immigration there is an officer with a black lab on a chain. I am figuring the dog will bark like crazy when I approach. But he doesn't. In fact he doesn't move. I go right past. Thinking that the dog has perhaps flunked his final, I am 30 or 40 yards away when I hear an officer say, "Will you stop right there sir. And do not turn around." I stop. I hear the officer say, "Good boy," and I assume it is praise for the dog, not me. I am thinking like a game show contestant now and expect to hear, "Thank you for playing, drug mule madness, here are a couple of parting gifts... Don Pardo what do we have for this gullible contestant?" But alas that is not the drill. I stand there for another five minutes waiting for the officer who planted the drugs on me to show up. It could have been less than five minutes, but it seemed like a couple of hours, because until the officer arrives, with my carry on, I am a drug suspect.
They retrieve the stash from my sock, thank me for my participation saying the dog needed the live drill and I was helping the cause. Of course for the next hour...the entire time I am at immigration and customs I feel like a drug smuggler. People who saw me being pulled out of line by the officer are avoiding my direct look. I am paranoid that the smell will stay with me and before I get out of the airport a more experienced dog will really bust me.
So I have now been the subject of a TSA "Gun Test" and a Homeland Security "drug test" during my airline commuting career. Feel safer when you fly this holiday, kids, Jay the security crash dummy is here to help.
As you were,