In Brussels April 18-23,1991. Idle observations at the end of the trip:
- April 22 was Lenin’s 121st B-day. His mausoleum was closed for repairs, which makes some wonder If this a signal;
- Last month Dmitri T. Yazov, Soviet Defense Minister, visited troops in the GDR without informing the German government – a serious breach of protocol. 500 Soviet troops have deserted in Gy in past year or so.
- 33 percent of English 7 years olds failed the National English Skills Test last year.
- Annual snail race held in Osenbach, France. Winner covered the one-meter course in 15 minutes flat. Blazing!
- Deposed Hungarian leader Karoly Grosz disclosed April 22, that Hungarians deployed Soviet Nukes “well into the Gorbachev era.” Warheads for Scuds, Frogs, and nuclear mines not removed from Hungarian territory until 1988. Official Soviet statements insisted over decades that there were Soviet missiles only in GDR and CSSR.
- Communist Andre Hediger (Swiss Party of Labour) elected mayor of Geneva last year, his party won with a first-ever red-green alliance won majority of city government. Hear greens called reds and commies back home from conservative, anti-envirosnmentalist forces. Funny how things and labels get assigned and conflated.
- Polls show 64% of Irish citizens want the divorce ban removed.
- Weekend frosts caused worst grape disaster in France since 1945. Bordeaux to have 50 % output. Pomerol and St. Emilion also hard hit and champaigne production to be down 33%. In Dordogne & Jura 100 percent of the vines have been damaged, Nantes (Muscadet) 95%, Cots de Saumier down est. 80-85%. Prices going UP.
The Trip Home:
Flew Brussels to Chicago, but weather at destination was bad and we were low on fuel and were diverted to Billy Mitchell Field in Milwaukee, kept on plane 90 minutes while refueled, then we taxied out but Ohare closed again, so we shut down on the apron and waited. No smokes, not food, no booze, no sort drinks, no explanations, no choice, prisoners. Passengers near me asked our stew what was going on. She said, “I’m just a stewardess.” We arrived at Ohare after a 5-hour delay. The purser announces to the captive passengers, “This has not entirely been the fault of our company. I arrived home after midnight. My bags didn’t make it. I carried them through customs and passport control and apparently they are still in Chicago. The wonders of modern travel.
Another trip, this time to London from Brussels, Feb 4 – Feb 7 1992:
Flew to London this morning. Lunch of Fish and chips and a pint of bitters at the Gatwick Hilton. Trip notes:
- Heard on the loudspeaker: Will the person who lost the blue teddy bear on the Transit contact Gate 37?
- Also heard at Gatwick: Unattended luggage will be taken and immediately destroyed.
- Sublime or bizarre, can’t decide: En Route, London to Minnie-polis, cruising at 35K over the vast white wastes of Greenland, sipping Champaigne, Bach in my headset, uniformed servants hovering, soft blankie over my legs.
- Glass of beer at Minneapolis airport is $4.65 a pop. Ridiculous. Welcome back to America.
And not to neglect domestic travel, To NYC, Sept 10-11, 1992: Trip notes:
- Trip from airport is awful. Wx at LAG (LaGuardia) has traffic backed up. We had to orbit two hours before diverting to Allentown PA. Missed our first approach there and had to go-around, no explanation offered by the flight crew. We landed on our second attempt and I noticed we have and crash and fire vehicles escort in to the parking area. We were told we will be bussed to NY LAG , a 90-minute jaunt when the traffic is normal. Is it ever? Then takes 60 minutes by cab from airport to the hotel in Manhattan. I left my house at 0630 for the 0715 flight and finally got to the hotel at 1800.
- There was an open-bed deuce truck on Fifth Ave. young people sing rock over loudspeaker and keep chanting “Free concert.” Bike messengers veer in and out of traffic making we wonder about life expectancy and insurance coverage. Sign on side of a truck proclaims, “RISE ROBOTS, RISE.” I love New York 9 (sic)
- Incas in Indiana Jones fedoras are playing electric flutes outside Barnes & Noble book store on Fifth Ave. An Italian kid in rumpled suit begs a cigarette from me. He has table of books on sidewalk. Hot sale, hot sale! Right. All I can think about it is the Incas, the final humiliation of the Great Empire of the Clouds, reduced to taking donations from passersby in front of the Pan Am Building.
- At the Algonquin Hotel there is a gaggle of gussied-up Southin’ ladies “up to see the shows, Hon!”
- The Hotel’s cat, Matilda is still on duty.
- An Algonquin waiter laments, “This is hard on the legs. Five years until I have twenty, then I’ll so something else. I see all the whiteheads coming in and out. They all go crazy.” He waggles his finger at his temple.
- No matter where you go in NYC you see only the superficial. Reality only pops through on occasion.
- Sign for dog walkers at night: NO SCOOP? NO POOP. AND NO YIPPING TERRIERS.
- There is exactly one-inch clearance between my door and my bed.
- Koala Queen and I visit the Mayflower Hotel on CPW, Columbus Zoo honcho Jack Hannah is there with his female keeper entourage and they are just starting dinner at a huge round table in the dining room. They all have been served iced shrimp. One of the handlers escorts us up the elevator to a suite on the 14th As soon as the elevator door opens we are pummeled by the stench of wildness. Hannah will be on Good Morning America tomorrow morning. As soon as we step off the lift, we hear whistling. “Birds?” I ask. Says the keeper, “No, a pair of 18-month old mountains lions, brother and sister. Whistling pumas? Whowouldathunkit? The keeper adds, “This is how they communicate when they can’t see each other. There also is a 2-yr-old snow leopard, which garumphs for attention. Also on the floor: a Canadian Lynx,a bobcat, an orange and black cervil, which the keeper lets loose and which immediately runs wild. There is also a hairy rabbit and a lizard. Cats are raised in keeper’s homes, “But,” says the keeper,” you have to remember they are wild, not pets.” I wonder, why then raise them in homes? The cervil grabs a sheepskin pad from a purse, takes it to corner, knocks over a lamp, refuses to surrender its prize. Dawns on me something I once heard out west: “Only reason the cat don’t kill you is because you’re too big.
- Sojourn to Orvis Shop on 45th. A Chilean man and son (10-12 ish) area trying to get advice on steel head fishing in South America. The man’s wife is a chemical blond, decked out in furs and sparkle-arkles She sits on a leather hamper bouncing her leg, bored.
- Outside Orvis a wino sleeps on a subway grate (where heat rises). People step over and around him and nobody looks at him. Maybe they don’t see him?
- Walk to book store, Brentanos. Only three copies of The Domino Conspiracy. I ask clerk, “Is it selling well?” Typical NY response. “We just got it? (Translation, “Fuck off!”)
- At a project on East River Drive there is high school age football practice underway, mix-and-match uniforms, full equipment, Helmets all different colors. They are all working in an area 2 x 25 yards. Stones and trash on the ground. Tought to work on a passing game in such confines.
- Airport travelers look at each other, but don’t talk.
- “Beer is $5 a cup at La Guardia. There is tennis on three different TVs in the bar. Not one person is watching.