It is a blunt cultural insult that the coda to one's holiday in London and Paris, in which one has dined both high and low but always well, be punctuated by a simultaneously dessicated and soggy airplane sandwich two hours from touching down in Philadelphia. How do the aviation culinary masters manage to concoct food so absent of taste, texture and nutrition while making you feel grateful for the alms?
At the same instant that you are being poisoned by pressurized cheese food and random meat product, your bags are secretly conspiring with a cadre of blue quasi-uniformed, quasi-authorities to force you to hang around your final destination (a term I never liked; sounds too much like death) until, finally, you and fifty of your newest, closest nameless friends are informed that no one will be retrieving their dirty underwear any time soon. Good thing you decided against tucking that bottle of absinthe under your Dopp Kit. How would that look on a claim form?
W.C. Fields be damned, all in all, Philadelphia, it turns out, is not such a fun place in which to spend a layover. W.C. never had to pay twenty dollars for a buck-fifty worth of salad and never had to fly US Airways, the most impressive collection of liars and dolts assembled since the Nixon Administration. They are neck-and-neck with the current group in Washington. It could go either way. We are expecting our bags sometime today as per advice from a "Property Irregularity" official, but then again, we bought the itinerary timetable, also.
In London and Paris, the big news, regardless of what you hear on cable, is that Barcelona won a controversial European championship from Arsenal. While Tom Hanks' face is everywhere on the streets of the two capitals, the real story was where Thierry Henry would end up.
Two days of decompression will hopefully follow, and some attempts at writing will accompany re-entry into reality. Stories and anecdotes will follow, and I will refrain from the Internet equivalent of the family slide show, but I have a few things on my mind.
For now, some quick first impressions:
- Compared to what I watched on British and French TV, the scope and quality of broadcast journalism in the US is an embarrassment.
- It turns out that the rest of the world is not obsessed with America, and tends toward focusing on, well, the rest of the world.
- Were it not for the Internet, we in America would be completely stupid when it comes to world news.
- Surprise, surprise, Americans do not get spat on. You really have to go out of your way to provoke basic so-called anti-Americanism.
- London and Paris are the very best places to admit that you are from Pittsburgh. Although many still believe we huddle in the shadows of steel mills, Jerome Bettis and the Steelers are brought up with great humor and, I have to admit, a bit of respect. French doctors, on the other hand, speak of Thomas Starzl.
- A goodly number of London Underground workers think they have a bit of Doolittle in them.
- If you are lucky, you will never get over your children being happy, accomplished and in love with all sorts of things you wish for them. And if you are doubly lucky, your children will eventually make you look like a piker.
- Dave's right. I need a vacation.