Thursday, October 27, 2005

BGG.con: Thursday, Oct 27

After 28 hours of travel and 2 hours of sleep in the last 46, I'm in Dallas.

Anticipation is a double-edged sword. While providing me weeks of happiness awaiting my trip to the U.S., I also get this nagging knowledge that the trip will be over in 2.5 weeks. Depression is a bummer, isn't it? The only way to overcome this problem is to look forward to the next trip abroad, whenever that may be. This psyches out the depression and allows me to enjoy the trip.

Why only 2.5 weeks? I wasn't built for a day job or for standing still. I'm happy moving. Except for being with my family, nothing draws me back to anywhere, not house, not job, not stuff. Let it all go to Hell, and give me an income reporting on the state of games around the world. I'll take my family with me and be happy forever.

Every minute forward in the taxi, I want to reverse time and spend it again, just to try to draw out the trip. At least, that's what I said to myself in the taxi. I got my comeuppance for that as the trip progressed.

Moving along ...

Nokia has a flower advertisement with a sign proclaiming it the world's largest floral ad, outside a window in the airport. What a thing to be proud of. The word "perverse" comes to mind.

Before boarding, I called Nadine. Game night was happening. Yay! I hope to get the session report some time.

When does one become too old to want to sit near the window? Never, I hope.

My first problem was that my seat was next to a cat. I'm mildly allergic to cats, so I moved. No problem, there.

The flight left 50 minutes late. I was flying Tel Aviv to Toronto, connecting to Dallas. We arrived in Toronto with 3 hours to spare. No problem, right?

Wow. 15 minutes to taxi in and get through customs. Now, someone explain to me why they can't check my bag through to the connecting flight? You want to X-ray it again and ask me more questions go ahead. But this bag should not have to hit my hands. Even once.

Instead, I waited 45 minutes for my bag to come out. We're down to 2 hours. Walk out and up to the connection desk and check it in again. I really had to do that? So I think I'm done. But no. I have to go outside and transfer to Terminal 2. No instructions or signs here. I had to ask a passing bus driver what to do.

Get to terminal 2 and check in, right? No. I have to wait for my bag to come out of yet another metal vagina. Only this time, labor is protracted. An hour after checking my bag into connections, my bag isn't here. An hour before my flight goes. Meanwhile, the Air Canada people are lying to me. I believe that that is what they do to train for the job. They sit in a big room and practice lying. "No problem, Sir. It will be here in five minutes. There is plenty of time to make the connection. El Al does this sometimes, but it will get here. Yes, I checked." And so on, Fifteen minutes later, no bag. Fifteen minutes later, no bag. Then they try bluffing me. "Well, you can check in without your bag, but you will have to go the airport to pick it up when it arrives." Oh really? Someone (Air Canada, El Al, I don't really care) loses my bag and I have to spend two $40 round trips to the airport to collect it if and when it arrives? I don't think so.

20 minutes before my flight, and I'm ready to call the bluff, when it finally arrives. I had to run through the airport, literally. Nice people got out of my way to let me cut through lines for customs, etc. I get there, with little hope that my bag will actually make it onto the plane, of course, but it does. In the meantime, I was hoping to use some of those previous hours to actually eat and pray in private. So I ended up having to pray on the plane and eat my reserve food I always bring with me for just such occurrences. Usually it is the "forgetting to provide me with my kosher meal" occurrence.

Taking off, I notice out the window an entire small plane completely (yes, completely) engulfed in flames, including the surrounding tarmac. Hoses attempting to put it out or control it.

Praying on a plane full of southern Christians is one my joys in life, as I fling my tallis around my shoulders and wrap my arm and head up in my leather tephillin (phylacteries). Always amusing to catch the furtive stunned looks.

Newspaper on the flight. Frankly I don't know how Jewlicious could have missed this one, but the front page had an article on "Muslim Barbie", complete with full head scarf and arabesque look, and lots of talk about the licentiousness of traditional Barbie. Of course, "Muslim Ken" isn't planned, but - I'm not kidding you - a "protective older brother" is planned, obviously to kill her if she removes her scarf or is seen in public with Ken.

Another front page article: "Planned Parenthood" changing its name to "Federation for Sexual Health". Doing well, here. It must be nice to live in a boring country like Canada.

Land in Dallas after one hour of sleep. 10:45 am in Dallas means 6:45 pm in Israel. I left 22:45 hours ago. Now, the people I'm staying with can't pick me up at the airport, but they can pick me up from a bus or train near Forest Lane in North Dallas. I could spend $25 on a shuttle which will take about an hour, I guess. Or I can explore the nefarious public transportation and pay only $4.50. Any guesses?

Here's how it works:

1. There are no signs, instructions or information, and the transportation assistant at the baggage claim doesn't know how to do it. Yes, that's right: airport assistance for ground transportation cannot help you get to where you are going in Dallas, and does not even know how to help you get to the Dallas airport train station. (By the way, my luggage came out with no problems, and there was no customs to pass through going out.)

2. You take a free bus to the South Remote Parking at the "Remote" sign to the left of exiting the baggage claim.

3. From there, you take a free bus to the TRE station (Trinity Rail something). 45 minutes, so far.

4. Wait 35 minutes for the next Eastbound train. Take it to Union Station in Dallas. Another 30 minutes. Enjoy the ride with views of the backs of warehouses and rusting oil tank cars and ... No, that's about it.

5. Consider taking a "red line" (which is yellow) from Union station to Forest Lane or a bus to Forest Lane, except there is no information about buses anywhere near the train station, despite the fact that it is the same damn public transportation system. For that matter, there is no real information about the red and blue trains from the TRE and vice versa. The people working on these trains actually don't know where the other ones go. There are only three trains in the city: TRE, red, and blue.

6. Despite the fact that the bus probably goes closer to where I want to go, I at least know where to get the red train, so I hope that I can take a bus crossing Forest Lane once I get there. Big optimist, I am. The red train is a marvel of engineering. It starts out as a trolley. Very nice. Then it becomes a subway, an elevated train, a trolley, and elevated, a subway, an elevated, a trolley, an elevated, and then it gets to the next stop. Huh? Who designed this? It looks like the only reason it goes up and down is to meet the elevators that are next to the train landings. It feels like a roller coaster.

7. Get off at Forest Lane. Now 1:20 pm, 2.5 hours after leaving the airport. Is there a crosstown bus on Forest Lane. Yes ... except that when it gets to about a mile before the intersection I need (Preston and Forest), it mysteriously leaves Forest drives about a mile north, drives two miles west, and a mile south, meeting Forest again about a mile after I need it. Yeeha. Well, I can get off this bus at Preston and wherever, and then take another bus south on Preston.

By the way, it was at this point that I tried to give up my noble idea of managing on my own and called the people I was staying with, but for some reason I didn't have the right number. Also, I had expected to be able to find a place to a) buy a calling card or b) rent a cellphone. I didn't see anything like it anywhere, and no one knew where to do it or even what I was talking about.

One other thing: no one even checked my ticket when I got on these trains and buses. I suspect that they do periodic checks, but still.

8. Get on bus going down Forest Hill and then make my last stupid stupid mistake. I believed the bus driver when he said that it wasn't too far to walk from Hillcrest and Forest to Preston and Forest - only the next light and less than half a mile. Boy, am I dumb. I have my backpack - no problem - and my single roll on wheels suitcase which is fine for walking two miles an hour in an airport. An hour later and two miles walked, my suitcase wheels are basically shot. Need to buy a new one, I guess. How much will that cost? More than a shuttle, right? There were occasional sidewalks. When there weren't, the drivers in Dallas apparently don't think that someone walking in the side of the lane is any reason to move a bit over to the other side of the lane and drive slower.

What did I gain out of this, other than restoring my circulation after all that plane travel? Well, I found out that Dallas looks like I expected it, but much smaller. Take about twenty blocks from New York City, remove about two thirds of the buildings, shrink the rest to about 20 or 30 stories, and fade in the background to houses the rest of the way out. Looked like a movie set of a city. I found out that the train stops, literally, right outside the door of the Westin City Center, which is where the game con is. I found out the right way to get to where I'm going was to take the red one stop to West End and then a bus right up Preston, which is how I will be getting back and forth to the con.

Meet friends, shop a little - pants, jacket, cream soda. One tired Jew boy. Go back to bed.

Tomorrow: Farmer's Market.

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