Thursday, May 31, 2007

unsecure security

I'm sure most of you have heard the big news story about the guy who apparently didn't know he had a prescription resistant strain of TB and went on his scheduled marriage and honeymoon in Europe thus perhaps putting hundreds of lives at risk. He is now under a guard lock-down quarantine. I know, I know. He hadn't gotten the test results back and he swears he felt fine and best of all he wasn't even coughing while on his trip.
The new news coverage is about airport security and how a person in his (apparent) state of health could have even gotten on the plane in the first place.
Let me tell you how: security is none-existent and I'm pretty sure the security personal are under-paid, over-staffed, poorly fed, disgruntled, and simply following some sort of government protocol that no one really understands or even cares about.
I was going to do a write-up on the many airports I visited and list the best and worst in terms of security, friendliness, cleanliness, bathrooms, and what they have to offer fellow travelers in terms of food and entertainment and such. Well, why wait. I'll do it now.

Home state was the friendliest, cleanliest, and most willing to help a confused and nervous traveler. Then again I was at home state's airport at 4:30 a.m. so perhaps they were just fresh and clean from a good night sleep and hadn't been through the hell of a day yet.

Detroit: Definitely the coolest in terms of neon lights and distractions to keep a stressed person in a stoned and awe struck zone.
Friendliness: The Starbuck girl was lovely. The ticket counter person, not so much.
Security: Not sure as it was a transfer.
Bathrooms: Disgusting and small. Barely room for a person let alone for a person with luggage. I'm also guessing the last time they were cleaned, and don't let the trash can, bucket, and mop fool you, was around 1986. Ew.

JFK (I was there four times): What a joke. By far the most lax security I encountered and I was there four times both for domestic and international travel. Detroit-JFK, JFK-Frankfurt, Frankfurt-JFK, JFK-Boston. The thing they seemed most upset about on the international flight was that I had stepped over the yellow line while waiting in line. My bad.
When I stepped over the yellow line (when it was safe to do so) and showed the man my boarding pass and passport I kindly asked him how he was. His response: "I hate my job and I'm having a horrible day, but I'm glad you're having a good day." (Smell the sarcasm on the last sentence. It's pungent.)
Safely past him I then went to the carry-on security. I put my bag on the floor to get all of my oh-so-dangerous liquids that were safely under 3oz. We were chatting with each other and I then start to go through security when she asks if she has seen my boarding pass. I tell her she had and she gives me the okay to go through. Now, I had shown her my boarding pass, but really, should she take my word for it?

Customs: He didn't even look at me. He opened my passport, stamped it, and sent me on my way. It was so fast I asked if that was all. He assured me it was. Apparently I am not a threat nor do I look threatening. This is a good thing.

Domestically: I was pretty much breezed through security.
Shopping: A lot of high-end stores.
Food: Not a lot of variety and of course, expensive.
As I was 5.5 hours delayed in Frankfurt I missed my hotel and "slept" in JFK. However, I had (or wanted to) get to the terminal for my connecting flight. Luckily I had met two men who missed their flight to London so we trekked to the terminal together. The terminal was shut down due to construction and we were locked outside. That would be outside of the airport at 2 a.m. The helpful maintenance workers said we needed to walk around.
Walk around we did. I made the comment to one of the displaced travelers that I felt like I was Steve Martin in "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles."
Bathrooms: Not clean. I didn't really want to touch anything. However, after spending the night at JFK I most certainly had to. I took a "shower" in the sink and there was apparently only one stall that anyone was willing to use and it was behind me and my sink bath.

Also, on all my domestic flights there were announcements that the security alert had been raised to orange, but there wasn't any indication as to why or when. Personally I feel the whole alert system is a joke and nothing more than the government pretending to do something and to constantly remind us of 9/11, but that's just me.

Frankfurt (I was there twice): Good god whatever you do, don't mess around or smile in Frankfurt. I had 45 minutes to get from gate 12 to gate 42. There were only 44 gates in the airport and go through security. Oy.
All metal items need to be placed in the tray. Walk through the metal detector and each person is also gone over with a wand. The pat down and metal detecting wand was so thorough I needed a cigarette afterwards. I accidentally left a bottle of water in my purse. I realized my mistake as soon as I put the purse in the tray and it was going down the conveyor. I was pulled to the side. My bags were searched and when the devious and dangerous water bottle was found I was told to drink it. When I declined, I was again told to drink it. I took the bottle, but didn't drink from it. I was then, very forcibly, told to drink it. I obeyed. As I was drinking the hot and gross plane water it was ripped from my hand and thrown away. I really believe Mr. Frankfurt security guard was sad I didn't die from the hot and disgusting plane water.
Friendliness: Return flight was better than going, but don't expect smiles.
Bathrooms: Um, Yeah. There was a thorough hand washing afterwards.
Flight/plane: going, it was awesome. The flight crew was exceptional, then again it wasn't a full flight and perhaps they were able to give extra attention and care to everyone. Coming back it was horrible. The flight was nice, but there was a 5.5 hour delay and everyone pretty much had to fend for themselves in terms of water and such. Also, the delay was because the air conditioning was broken and it took several hours before they opened the doors to let some air in and then for whatever reason they were closed again. I was so parched and thirsty by the time I arrived in JFK I would have committed sins for some tasteless clear liquid.
Ease of getting to and fro: Bad. Moving sidewalks that last for only about 50 feet and too many people simply standing in the narrow walkway to try and pass one another.

Athens (I was there four times): No big deal. Check-in, check-out, put bags and liquids in a tray, walk through the metal detector.
Bathrooms: clean.
Friendliness: Eh, not overly so, not underly so.
Shops: A decent selection of places to shop and to eat.

Mykonos: I was only dropped off...the airport was pretty much empty except for my flight that had just arrived.

Santorini: For a smaller airport the security was pretty good.
Bathrooms: Funny moment: Hands are lathered up I go to wash off the soap and....where's the water? Where's the faucet? Why isn't the water coming out of the faucet? I'm moving my hands under the faucet because I think it must be a laser sensor. I'm looking all over the place. This is going on for a few minutes and a few people have walked in to the bathroom and I've asked them for help. They either don't understand me or they simply are mean, because no one helped me. I'm truly starting to panic at this point. I can't get on the plane with white foamy soapy hands. SOMEBODY HELP ME! A lady then points to the floor. Oh. There is a button on the floor that I need to step on to activate the water. Clever!
Shops: There are a variety of shops and places to eat.

Boston (I was there twice): Security was standard. Basically if a person either doesn't have any dangerous liquids 3oz or under they are pretty much safe and secure to board the plane.
Friendliness: Information desk was most helpful.
Cleanliness: Spotless and I was there both in the a.m. and the p.m.
Shops and such: A wide range and variety.
Ease of getting to and fro: No problem. Drop off and pick-up is a bit congested, but that is to be expected.

Minnesota: Security: Don't know as it was a transfer.
Friendliness: The staff was a bit stressed because of delays and such.
Cleanliness: Spotless.
Shops and such: Whether a person would want a meal, or face soap, stamps, or a hunting license, a stuffed animal, or a beer just go to the airport. The place had everything to the point of ridiculousness...everything.
Ease of getting to and fro: I had to go from Gate C to Gate G in terms of the alphabet that doesn't seem far. In terms of an airport, it's a long ass way to go. However, there wasn't a problem. Many moving sidewalks to help with luggage and tired travelers. Many massage chairs to ease tired and sore muscles.

I realize I haven't been everywhere. However, in terms of recently traveled planes, flights, persons, and airports I think this is a pretty good range of what to expect which is that unless it's Frankfurt, security isn't secure.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

(some) pictures from (part) of my trip

I am (slowly) (very slowly) getting all of my pictures downloaded onto flickr. If flickr would let a person download more than six pictures at a time it would go much faster. Just a guess. (Or if I didn't have four hundred pictures to download I would already be finished.


Here are some of the pictures. I will try to get the rest of them on here shortly as well as some of the stories I do have to tell.

I already miss it.


Fenway Park
Boston: North End
Athens: Lunch in the Palka
Athens: Archaeological Museum
Athens: The Streets of the Palka I was told by GirlGoyle that Athens is: big, expensive, and dirty. I completely agree with that statement. Take New York, times it by 10 add more dirt and pollution and that was my impression of Athens.
Athens: Zeus' Temple
Santorini: Volcano hike and boat cruise
Santorini: Fira

I will try to get the rest of my trip and pictures and stories up in the next week. (I am going in reverse. Boston was at the end of my trip and Delos was my last day in Mykonos.)

I still can't believe I went and I really can't believe I came back. (Seriously.) However, every time the wind blows I feel like I am back on the islands. Lovely.

Monday, May 28, 2007

oh yeah. I gradumatated

On May 19th to be exact.

I didn't attend the ceremony because of the hellish college experience at Small Private Expensive College and also because I was still sleeping when the ceremony was taking place. Ah, jet-lag.

Anyway. Yep. My head is officially over-edumacated and full of tons, of what I am sure will some day become useful kanowledge that has cost way too much money. However, my GPA was pretty decent, (3.481) not my goal, but all things considered (130 credits in two years, full-time job, two part-time jobs, a knack for going out.) (My goal was no less than 3.6, and I had maintained a 3.8 up until this last fall.) I should stop my bellyaching and just be glad it's over.

Ta Dah!

Monday, May 21, 2007

world traveler of airports

After two glorious weeks, I am back. Sadly. I can't believe I actually packed my bags and came home. Seriously.
I had an amazing, amazing time.
The first words after, "Welcome home, World Traveler" from my brothers and sister-in-law was, "...did you get laid?" I don't know whether to find those words, disturbing or telling. Either way, I didn't answer it. To which they all noticed. I will say that a single gal in Greece doesn't stay single for very long. The men are interesting to say the least, and I sadly discovered that Greek moves are the same as American moves. I'm pretty sure the first English words they learn are: "You are very beautiful, come back to my apartment, and I can drive you home." (Just a guess.) I received one marriage proposal, more hilarious than romantic, and learned to say, "I need to ask my husband." to the local male perveyors of shops who wanted to bargain and sell me their wears.

New York was fun. The weather wasn't the greatest when I was there, but I had a blast nonetheless. The Yankee game was cold, but a good time. I actually hurt my foot the first day of my trip. Something about walking from my hotel on E 51st all the way to 42nd street, all through Time Square and Broadway, back again and onto some side streets. However, I didn't let it stop me or slow me down during my trip. I walked everywhere and anywhere in all places and enjoyed every glorious and delicious second of it.

Mykonos was amazing and breathtakingly beautiful and my hotel was literally right on the beach. Man, that was tough. By far my favorite place on the trip.

Santorini was marvelous and I climbed to the top of a volcano and dove into the cold, cold sea without a second thought of the temperature or of what might be swimming underneath me.

Athens was big and bustling. Frustrating moment: the metro was on strike my second day there so I hoofed it from one end to the other...literally.

Boston is my kind of town and I need to go back this summer when the weather is nicer. (Very cold and rainy.) Fenway Park and Red Sox fans, what to say, but I loved every freezing second of it.
I found the town to be very laid back, very welcoming, and I drank a few pints in the hopes that it would warm me up. You know the theory: cold beer, warm thoughts.

After seventeen airports, nineteen planes (two planes were broken. If it is between a delay or flying in a broken plane, I will take the delay every time.)(That figure it no exaggeration. Seriously, it was that many. I was SO very sick of my luggage and security.) A odd moment with security in Frankfurt, in which I think the guard was sad I didn't die. Four hundred and seventy-two pictures I am still uploading onto my flickr account, and many misadventures, and many stories to tell, I am already dreaming of my next trip abroad. However, Greece and the islands are still very much in my heart and in my mind. Truly, truly wonderful. Absolutely my solace.

I will post more and tell some of the stories and post the pictures in the very near future.
My summer is already proving interesting and it will only become more so as it passes through the heat and humidity of the next several warm and breezy days and nights.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

for everything else, there's visa

Tonight is my last class of my undergrad career. Tomorrow I pack. Saturday I leave on a early morning plane for destinations out of my home state. Color me glowing with anticipation.

One round-trip ticket from home state, to Detroit Rock-City, to NYC to Boston, back to home state =$327.00.

A steal of a deal for a hotel for the weekend in the heart of Midtown Manhattan = $400.00.

Seats on the first base line at a Sunday afternoon Yankee game =$66.00.

Eight nights in Greece. Including three nights in Mykonos, three nights in Santorini, two nights in Athens, including airfare, hotel accommodations, and day-trip excursions= $2,414.64.

One night in a two-star hotel in Jamaica Queens, NY for nothing more than a bed and a shower= $172.00.

One night hotel accommodations in Boston, but finagling it so I will be there for two days and only four miles from Fenway Park= $99.00.

Seats on the first base line at a Red Sox game= $95.00.

Looking forward to taking a two-week break from life and forgetting about everything, priceless.

My life has been hectic, chaotic, emotional, and stressful.

I've finally graduated from college and this is my reward to myself.

I've worked one full-time and at least two-part-time jobs, donated plasma, recycled pop cans, and sold a lot of my material goods on Sometimes you just have to say, what the hell, and go for it. Plus, I'm really tired of putting my life on hold. For everything that red blood cells, recycled aluminum, Internet selling, and working for the man in the city- can't buy, there's visa.

I'll see you all in two-weeks.
Don't worry, the stories will be plentiful, the flirting will be abundant, the tan will be deep and dark, and the memory card on the camera, my heart, and my mind will be full.

inner dork: New York, Greece, and Boston

(oooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, I'm so excited!) (Why? Well, it is Inner Dork Thursday.)

Did you know…

New York:
There are 6,374 miles of streets in New York and 578 miles of waterfront? (I plan to walk (almost) every mile of it.)
John Hertz, who founded the Yellow Cab Company in 1907, chose the color yellow because of a study by the University of Chicago stating that yellow was the most recognizable color.
Bronx was named after Jonas Bronck who was one of the first to settle here in 1636, the Bronx officially became a borough in 1898.
Brooklyn: The Dutch were the first to settle there in 1640. Today Brooklyn is the largest of the boroughs.
Staten Island: Was originally discovered by Florentine explorer G. Da Verrazano.

Greece: Ah, I’m going to make you go to the link: It’s all Greek! I mean, it’s Greece, the factoids are long, varied, and numerous. Its been around awhile.

Boston Common was the first public park in the US (1634.)
Revere Beach was the first public beach in the US (1896.)
Boston is referred as the “Cradle of Liberty.”
Boston Public Library was established in 1848 and was the first publicly funded municipal library in the US. It was the first to lend a book and to have a branch library.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

No, concentration. No, attention span. No, concentration. No, attention span. No...

...what was I sayin'?

Last final and class of my undergrad career: Thursday night.

Days to finalize my independent study project: Two. Today and tomorrow. Of course, the web won't let me make any changes to the said project.

Last day of work: Thursday.

Leaving for the trip of a lifetime: Saturday. Early (very early) a.m.

Number of days to get ready for trip of a lifetime: One. Friday.

Yeah. I am so ADHD right now.

Ball, huge ball, of nervous and stressed energy.

Huge. Ball. Of. A.D.H.D. Energy.

Now. What was I sayin'?

the delicious warm humid air

There are many things I love about the start of warm weather:
Bare legs.
Fun summer shoes.
The first beginnings of sun-kissed skin.
Bare feet.
Raising my face up to the sun to catch a few extra rays.
Driving with the windows rolled down and my hair blowing this way and that.
Blinking and suddenly realizing everything is clean, crisp, green, and the brightest shade of blue.
The smell of freshly mowed grass.
Leaving my car behind and walking to and fro.
Working out in my summer solace and getting my hands dirty planting this summer's crop of flowers and vegetables.
Putting on last year's swimsuit and realizing I look better this year than last.
The smell of sweat and sex in the air.

Last night I realized there is something else I love about summer.

Leaving Small Private College in my Mustang with the windows rolled down and old school Beastie Boys spinning in the CD player I am making my way home when a car of four young college boys meet up with me on the four lane highway. They pass me with ease and I can tell they feel victorious.
I can't let that feeling last for them.
I then pass them with ease.
They call sweet names to me out their window.
I stare straight ahead on the night road, the full moon guiding my way, as a sly smile crosses my lips.
We then play a fun game of, who can pass who.
They try to pass me on the hill.
I push down on the gas ever so slightly.
They try to pass me on the curves.
I accelerate.
The stay behind me for several miles.
They think they have an opening.
But to no avail, I again, accelerate slightly.
I let them pass me when I have to switch to another highway.
Cat-calls and whops and hollers travel from their open windows and into the lovely night air.
With a smile on my face, the beautiful moon in front of me and the Beastie Boys telling me there will be no sleep 'till Brooklyn I make my way home and realize summer is indeed in the air.