Monday, March 24, 2008

Fiasco Style

Lupe’s words takes you on a train ride with wall to wall windows that display vivid but rapidly passing scenery. The images are sharp from this distance, but you get the feeling that there would be much more to discover if you had the time to look even closer. But you don’t, because to focus on the micro would prevent you from seeing the panorama being painted before you. Maybe next time, you say.

The train is tricky though. The scenery is too inviting, and it is too tempting to resist. You think you see an opportunity, yes, perhaps this chorus or instrumental will give you just enough time to look closer at that oasis of words that just left entered your mind. The exploration into this lush poetry is rewarding, leaves you admiring the artist’s layers of depth and creativity.

And that is the catch. You turn your focus back to that torrent of words that carried you thus far, and you see that it has begun to leave you. By the time you reconnect, you are no longer in the same place where you initially stepped off. Disorriented but not lost, you vow to stay on track… at least until you are a little more familiar with the ride. Back to the vibrant scene you go, riding on the train powered by soul.

Hooray Lupe, you make rap music that makes you think. Makes you interpret. Makes you WRITE. I wrote this as I listened to his second album, which although not as poetic as his first, still makes me smile. Words not just for the sake of communicating, but as art, that’s what you have to appreciate about the guy. Bravo.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The French Connection

The art of international travel is lost to me, but I am learning. The following is a recount of my trip from Austria back to Houston.

At four-fifty in the morning my alarm goes off. Brush teeth, zip suitcase, say goodbye to the sis and I am down the steps by five. Other than the fifty dollar fee for the ride to the airport, the cab ride was a pleasant experience. The cabbie was even nice enough to drive past all the sights of Vienna along the way. At 5:30AM I am walking in the airport, perfect timing for my 7:15AM flight.

I check in, get my tickets for my Parisian flight, and go and wait at the terminal. In retrospect, the problems began around this time. My flight from Austria to Paris was scheduled to leave at 7:15 did not leave until 7:35. This proved to be problematic because I needed all the time I could muster to make my Parisian connection. Without delay, I would have 50 minutes to get from my arriving gate in Terminal D to my departing gate in Terminal E. I know from experience that this is a 12 minute walk and there are no shortcuts. So in theory, all was well in mind.

We take off, I sleep, we land. I look at my watch and am a little dismayed to see that it is 9:55AM… we did not make up anytime in the air at all. By ten we had docked and the doors were opened. I was ready to run because I knew my 12 minute walk was contingent on beating all the people through security. As I am walking towards the exit of the gate, I see a French airport employee holding a sign with names on it, one of which was mine. It was then that I was introduced to the Airport idiot.

Of course, I did not know that he was an idiot then, I though I was saved. I figured this guy knew my time situation and was going to take me and the others some secret route that would get me to the plane in plenty of time. I was 90% sure he was going to have a car on the tarmac and would simply drive us to the other terminal… boy was I wrong.

So I tell him that I am Anthony Jackson, and asked if my Houston flight was on time… this is when I learned that he spoke no English and I spoke no French. Fair enough, I was in Paris and I guess I can’t expect everyone to speak English (except for the fact that every other airport employee I talked to knew English). Seeing the language gap, I make hand motions for us to get moving. But no, we must wait for the four other people on his list to arrive. Five minutes later, there are only three of the five. Time 10:08. The guy who’s flight left at 10:15 was getting angry and demanding that we move, so reluctantly the escort agreed. Instead of walking down the steps to the tarmac to a fast moving car, we walk into Terminal D. He stops, looks at the overhead signs, and seems confused. I thought it odd that an airport employee had a hard time reading the signs that ordinary travelers could figure out. Especially since they had that confusion free character ‘the arrow’…Terminal E this way. So we go down the escalator, except by this time, all the passengers on the plane have also gone down this escalator and are waiting to go through security. He asks another employee how to get to Terminal E and not liking the answer, he takes us back up the escalator. We follow and end up exactly where we started. He looks at the sign again, and we go back down the escalator. This time he uses his authority. He cuts through the line of passengers, with much protests from the passengers (who yell out variations of “we are late too”). We follow and soon we get through security and onto a bus. Not a car, but the same bus that all the passengers are going to have to get on. So after we wait for all the people we just cut in front of to get on the bus, we take off for Terminal E.

Now at this time, I am sure that this guy is an idiot, and I am seriously trying to decide whether it is best to ditch him or not. The time was around 10:15 and I knew I might need his help in getting the plane delayed, so I decided to stick with him.

The bus comes to the first stop. It announces in French and English that it is for gates E76 to E92. Me and the other gentleman are flying out of E61. Naturally I stay on the bus when the door opens. The French export leaves and beckons us to follow. I say ‘Wrong stop, we are the next one’… he says ‘No, this one’. I point to a sign that says ‘Next stop E59 to E75’ and try and get him to understand. In retrospect, I see this man has a weakness for reading. Instead of reading the next stop part of the sign, he sees the line of E59 to E75 as an affirmation that he is right. Unfortunately, the Canadian passenger that was in this mess with us also reads the signs incorrectly and they take off up the escalator. This was my crossroads. I looked back at the closing doors of the bus, and then I turn to look at the Airport idiot going towards the escalators. The battle raged for microseconds, and I decided to continue following the idiot. I still needed his help. Up the escalators we go, and the escort realizes his error. Instead of walking directly to our gates, we would have to take a train… that was not arriving for two more minutes. I look down the escalator, to see that the bus is gone, great. The escort then proceeds to say ‘everything OK’ for the next two minutes and I had no option but to hope he was right. The train comes. Time 10:20. We board the train, and three minutes later we are at our exit. We run into another security check, and he ushers us towards the moderately sized line. He says ‘everything ok!’ one more time and seems to want to leave. I asked the security lady about the Houston flight, and her face said that everything was not ok. She said something very rapidly to our escort in French, and then she cut us through the security line and told us to run.

It is 10:25 and we are running. Yes running. The Tims on my feet, the luggage on my shoulder and the recent skiing made running about the last thing I was capable of doing, but we ran anyways. The Frenchie was soon running out of breath, and it was clear he had served his purpose. We left him behind, and soon enough we had reached the our gate. The attendants rushed us to the plane and I was relieved to see that we had made it. I walk to the door of the plane and the flight attendant puts a hand out and said to stop. Turns out they may have given our seats away, they had to count how many seats were available. I position myself to see that all of the first class seats are open, and am pretty excited about the prospects. By this time, there are four people waiting to board the plane and is 10:30. After a few more minutes of waiting, she tells me to come aboard. Unfortunately she ushers me past first class to my seat which was in the very last row of the plane by the toilets. I was too tired to care. Besides, the slight smell of urine would mask my sweat funk from all the running.
The story does not end there, because the captain announces that we are to be further delayed because of the baggage door. It seems that when they tried to open the door again to add our bags, the door would not close again. We ended up waiting on that to get fixed for 15 minutes. The 10:20 flight did not leave until nearly 11:00 AM but I was on it and I was happy.

Back in Houston I find out that they had lied when they said my bags were on the plane, but they agreed to deliver them to me the next day. So here I sit, in my apartment, waiting on the bags but happy to have survived my French Connection.