Early signs of sleep deprivation began to set in on the second leg. Too excited to sleep, I was also too excited to notice that I hadn’t. My first sights of Europe (well, from outside the airport, at least) were still a full day away from me. Heading towards Dublin under the dark of night, there was no chance of seeing the Atlantic. I watched the flight tracker, obsessively for God knows how many hours, instead.
Watching flight trackers is a deceptive hobby. Your airplane is nowhere near as large as it appears on the map. Were it so out of proportion, the main cabin would be the size of a Great Lake and one of the wings as long as New Jersey. Poor bird wouldn't stand a chance.
Cristina napped for most of the nearly 3,000-mile, six-hour flight between Boston and Dublin. It’s a frequently flown route, believe it or not. The Irish have been coming to Boston since the famine, forming the city’s largest ethnic group. Roman-Catholic-Irish catholicism runs deep in South Boston, from Marky Mark all the way down to his Funky Bunch. Her Lingus has been the official paddy wagon between Potatoville and Beantown since the sixties.
My eyes were fixed on the tracker. I read the temperature outside was in the negative sixties. That was much colder than I ever imagined.
I’ve long suffered from strange paranoid fantasies about dying in a Final Destination plane crash. These hallucinations are either aerophobic or aviophobic; the Internet is unclear about which. Either way, these waking nightmares are more of a passing preoccupation than a phobia. They always go something like this:
I see the top of the plane peeled back as if by a giant can opener. People scream while being thrown helplessly to their deaths, doomed to drop 40,000-feet through the clouds. I white-knuckle my armrests as my oxygen mask dangles before me, reminding me to breathe. I'm just about to let go, and then I wake up.
I now realize a new pain these fantasies overlooked. Until my flight to Ireland, I never realized how cold it would be if that actually happened. Negative sixty-six degrees... can you imagine?
Los Angeles Airport is the Hartsfeld-Jackson of the West Coast. Luckily for me, I grew up in Atlanta under a busy Delta pilot. LAX is easy compared to ATL. We breezed through security and found our gate with nearly two hours to spare. I spent one of those hours waiting in a typically snake-like Los Angeles-bagel shop line. I can’t remember the name of the café, or at least I won’t put it in print. All I will say is that the bagel shop was adjacent to the airport’s animal relief station. Or was that just the café's kitchen?
Cristina and I shared a breakfast of two just-lightly-enough-to-technically-be-called-“toasted” bagels, cream cheese, and two coffees. Already, my plant-based days were behind me. When I asked for a receipt to mark the occasion, I was wholesale ignored. When I reached over the counter and snatched the slip myself, the barista yelled at me. Boy, was I going to miss LA. The entire transaction costs me $17 in USD, but far more in self-esteem.
We arrived at LAX around 3:30 am, anticipating trouble with our tickets. Aer Lickus, in addition to jigsaw puzzling our preferred set of plans, re-booked our first leg to Boston through Jet Blue. What happens when the powers of two substandard airlines combine? Nothing that bad, actually.
Unable to print our boarding passes at the self-service kiosk, we became the third party in a growing ticketing line full of agitated Jet Blue regretters. As we waited, we learned the ticket counter opens two hours before the first scheduled flight. Our flight was scheduled for 6:30, so I pulled out a book, making myself comfortable for the wait. At 4 am, many in the increasingly antsy crowd behind us learned that the 6 am flight to San Francisco had been canceled.
Murmurs in the crowd behind us were becoming louder, ruder, and more frequent. People were the type of mad that people become when their day is ruined by some slipshod airline, which could really be any of them. The woman directly behind me was particularly frustrated with the Blue. She aired her grievances very loudly to no one in particular.
“Shitty-ass airline... motherfucking Jet Blue. How the fuck are they just gonna cancel without telling anyone? That’s no way to treat people. That's not how you treat people.”
Cristina and I found ourselves at an early hurdle in our journey. On the one hand, the mood surrounding us was clearly going south. It would be easy, nay, understandable, to fear the worst. On the other hand, we had no particular reason to become anxious just yet. Our flight was still scheduled for 6:30, so we saw no reason to lose hope until 4:35. It wasn’t easy to remain uninfluenced by the angry mob behind us. Somehow, we persevered.
When the woman behind me umpromptedly prompted me to testify and share my negative experience with Jet Blue, I answered that I had yet to have one.
“But I hear they really suck,” I added a lame footnote, desperate to be accepted by this representative of the crowd. She wasn’t impressed.
“Well, they aren’t that bad.” She countered, willing to contradict her initial point just to disagree with me. She said something nice to Cristina, who responded in kind. They became fast friends, bonding over their mutual disdain for me.
Bringing people together – one of the many little things I do that make me a great boyfriend.
Charlie and I planned to do what we always did when he came to town. We’d go get a Fat Sal’s actual-submarine-sized-sandwich, have a few drinks, and play Grand Theft Auto V until Cristina got off work. Then, we’d all watch some delectably trashy television, something like Love Island or Fox News. It was a beautiful day of regression, one that was nearly ruined by the dog.
In the days before our departure, our beloved Lox, a 77-year-old pandemic Shih-Tzu, developed an eye condition we’d never seen before. Both eyes had swollen pink. They produced mounds of green mucus at alarming rates. Unable to be seen by our vet on Friday, we were crushed to learn their offices would close on Saturday. I would have to take him to the Veterinary Centers of America.
I walked into the VCA looking for a pet hospital. Instead, they took me to the cleaners.
Three hours, two unnecessary tests (even if there were tumors behind his eyeballs, did they really think we were prepared to do something about it?) and one insultingly small bottle of doggy Vasoline later (I’m assuming the stuff was made with pure silver and gold) - Lox had his medicine, Cristina had her re-assurance, and I had to sell my left foot to a pawn shark.
Seeing that I was clearly upset by the unforeseen small fortune spent the day before leaving the country for three weeks, brother graciously paid for my sandwich. We spent the rest of the afternoon sticking to our original plan of crime without punishment. It was a glorious Saturday of nothingness and laughter.
Traveling during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic comes with peculiar challenges. Obstacles took the form of government forms, permits, and the associated risks of sharing air with strangers in a flying tin can. Every country has its own scourge-related travel regulations. Cristina and I planned to span three nations in one day.
A year and three months after the start of lockdown, the United States required no special permits to travel in between states at a federal level. Most states only require some sort of face covering, whether it be a mask or your mother’s Sunday panties, and a determination to leave wherever it was that you were.
Our first stop after Los Angeles would be a short transfer in Boston. The Boston layover would only last two hours, preventing us from stepping into Massachusetts proper, anyway.
Dublin, Ireland, would follow Boston, accompanied by about a 10-hour thumb-twiddling marathon between connections. At the time of our departure, the Irish required a clean covid PCR test taken within seventy-two hours of your departure. Even though Cristina and I had no plans to leave the Dublin airport, we still had to produce a negative PCR to lounge around the lush Irish terminals. We signed a form stating under the threat of perjury that we didn’t have the vid. At least to the best of our knowledge.
Completing the requirements for a long morning in Dublin took less than half an hour in total. We did so two days before chasing the rainbow. Ireland had done away with all of these requirements (and, it seemed, mask-wearing) by the time we returned from Spain.
Spain, in line with local customs, was lax on regulations. All we had to do was fill out another perjury form, swearing to abstain from pro-corona life choices. We did so in earnest, spending less than five minutes on the project while sitting in the Boston airport lounge. But it was a long day before we reached the lounge.
A Typical Day with Lox
If you want to lounge in bed, he'll happily stay with you. We normally drag him to the top of the bed, and he lets us hug him like a teddy bear. When he's more alert he'll give you kisses like you just got back from Nam. Breakfast is between 7:30-9, whatever works for you. Take him out for a 15-20 minute walk after.
He gets one patty per meal with a touch of Greek. Mash the patty, fill the bowl about 1/4 of the way with water, and mix everything together. His food is raw meat, so wash his eating bowl after each meal. We go over the counter and sink with a Clorox wipe at least once a week, sometimes more. Now that this little Beefcake is fed, it's time to take him on a walk.
Lox prefers a leisurely pace for his waddles around the park. Be patient with the old man. He likes to sniff the yard gingerly. But keep an eye on him: he likes to eat other dog's poop, and he knows he shouldn't. Smack that shit out of his mouth if you must.
Lox has made friends with many of our neighbors and their furry friends. Many passersby will greet you while walking. Practice cautious optimism with meeting larger dogs - there's usually no problem, but Lox isn't as tough as he acts. He barks when meeting new dogs. As long as his tail's wagging, then you know he's all good.
Give him time to poop in the morning. Take him out at least three times a day: post-meals, then a 5-10 break around 1-2, then sometimes a pee before bed. But he's a very social pup. He loves going to the park, for car rides, restaurants, whatever. The more you want to take him out, the better.
He normally goes in the planter outside the apartment. Loxie Poo almost always experiences a movement after breakfast and sometimes after dinner, too.
Dinner's between 5-7. When you feed him his dinner patty, don't forget to pull two patties from the freezer. Put them in the same Tupperware to thaw till morning. Wash the Tupperware once a week.
After his evening walk, Lox will go full Sack-o-Potatoes mode and will only need attention in case of a tummyache. Dog responsibilities are done after his evening walk, so you could go out all evening/night, and he would prob just sleep during that time.
We haven't left him alone for more than 6 hours during the day. He's super chill for outdoor dining but can be a handful in crowded areas. LA is uber dog-friendly. We've brought him to Trader Joe's, Sprouts, Smart & Final, happy hour, etc. If you're having a day out, there's the doggy backpack: The Ultimate Thirst Trap.
We've got Lox on that free week trial at Dog-E-Den that you can use till Wednesday the 14th. It's $35/day after that, and they already have your contact info.
Tricks & Treats & Grooming
Lox does a few tricks for treats. We encourage you to practice these tricks on the daily, but it isn't required.
We're working on stay and come, but this old dog can be stubborn. He has a few toys around the house he may want to play living room fetch with.
Lox loves to play bite. Play with him as much as possible.
Lox loves his treats in the red bag. Break those up into pinch-sized pieces before treating him.
Lox loves Greenies. Give him one a day. But make him work for it.
Conditions & Emergency Numbers
Give him the eye gunk twice a day from now until the 21st. (A little bit on the finger, rub it all over his eyes, both eyes.) Do it with meal times to make it easier and give him a treat after. He sometimes needs Pepcid if his stomach is upset. They are the circular Famotidine tablets, break them in half and give them with a treat.
He may have some anxiety after we leave. When we first adopted him, he didn't pee or poop regularly for a week or two. He may have a similar reaction after we go. It should pass.
He licks his paws when he's winding down at night or when he's bored. He tends to drool like crazy. Put a licking blanket under him, like the green and blue one on the bed.
Encourage him to drink more water. I know it's weird, but it works.
He'll eat most food you drop (as long as it's not green), and that's fine. But don't let him eat anything spicy. When his stomach hurts, he'll let you know he wants to go out. If he's sitting by the door whining, he needs to go out.
He occasionally has some coughs and digestion issues, and if you ever see him limping, check his paws - he's probably just picked up a spur on the walk.
In case of an emergency, Laurel Pet Hospital is five minutes away. His vet's name is Allison Pang, their phone number is 323-654-7060. They aren't open on Saturday. We'll pray nothing happens on Saturday because the VCA will rob you.
Non-Lox Related Things
You'll be driving my car while Cristina's is in the garage, though she asks that you take it somewhere once a week to keep the motor strong.
Street Sweeping is on Mondays and Tuesdays from 9 am to 11 am. On Monday, park the car on our side of the street. On Tuesday, park it on the other side. Parking is usually available, but if you're really struggling then it's probably okay to just pull into the Plummer Park parking lot till something opens up. Treat my Pilot like it's your own. Except don't total it.
Cristina has placed instructional Post-Its on the household plant life.
Make yourself at home in the apartment. Have some friends over, use the television, my desk is your desk, do whatever you got to do. Our downstairs neighbor has some medical issues, so just don't be up too late making noise. You'll probably be fine.
Venice is my favorite beach to go to from here because it's only about 45 minutes away, the water is dead, the crowd is lively, and parking usually isn't that bad. I usually take Santa Monica to Cienega to the 10 to Fourth Street and find free street parking as close to the beach as possible. If you're having trouble finding a spot in that area, Google "Gjusta" and head that way. There's always some parking available near that bakery, they've got great croissants, and it's only 5-10 minutes to the beach.
Newport Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Malibu are all pretty cool. There's a dog beach in Malibu and one in Long Beach, too.
Have fun, and don't let the dog die.
First thing’s first: let’s kill all the politicians.
Hear me out. I’m not taking sides in our national dichotomy, as senseless as it is. Really, could all political opinions be represented by only two mainstream parties? That’s part of the lie we’ve been sold, the trap we’ve stumbled into. At this point in time, there’s only one way out. Let’s kill all the Republicans; let’s kill all the Democrats. Every. Last. One of them.
We don’t need them. Those gluttonous sycophants are our enemies. Who are we? We the People, of course. It’s always been their strategy to divide and conquer The People as offerings of capitalistic sacrifice. While we roast like pigs on a rotisserie, they fatten themselves at our altars. But that’s where they made their misstep – in dividing us so thoroughly, they’ve left themselves totally exposed. They’re defenseless, all in one place. We the People, if only we could unite, could easily sacrifice the bloodsuckers, instead. The worst are in Washington, so why not blow it up? Trump, Clinton, Gaetz, Pelosi, Sanders, any type of Kennedy, and definitely all the Bushes – every last one of them. It’s the only way to take our freedom back. It’s the only way to be American.
As you can see, a year indoors has been detrimental to my sanity.
When the pandemic hit, the only thing I knew to do was to freak out, thoroughly and completely. Seven months later, I was still doing the same damn thing. But at some point, I began to ask myself, “Why?” Why am I so angry? Why am I not doing what I want to do? And if no one is paying me either way, why am I not chasing my dreams? Emboldened by my newfound fatalism that bordered on complete recklessness, I made some formerly unthinkable changes.
Meat, dairy, and alcohol went out the door. I had myself a cleansing, a secular baptism of sorts. I switched to a strictly plant-based diet, though I hate the word vegan. It has too many connotations. Too many assholes are vegan, and too many vegans are assholes. We can all agree on that. We should kill all the vegans, too. But definitely the politicians, first.
Anyway, I threw things on the burner that desperately needed to be there. Cleaner (and therefore, more focused) than ever, I attacked my writing with the vigor of a horny bull in a sexy China shop.
I wrote and I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. For my entire adult life, and most of my teenage years, my dream was to be paid for my words. I finally achieved it, and surprisingly quickly, too, once I cut out all the distractions. No more video games, no more late nights, no more numbing. I wrote what I wanted, I applied to the jobs I wanted, and within two months of my changes, I finally reached my goals. Convinced I had made it, I attacked my new employment with the energy I used to put into worrying about the past and future. Finally, during the year of Corona, I found my way to the moment. I found what it was that I wanted to do. And I found more than ever that I wanted even more.
Writing for an online sports magazine is fun. Truly, I enjoy it. But a job is a job is a job is a job. There are deadlines. There are stories I don’t care about. There are corporate sponsors and their surprisingly sensitive feelings that must be considered. There are bad editors, lazy HR reps, and criminally greedy CEOs. For someone determined to live their dream, building someone else’s dream is simply a nightmare. My dream was to write my own books, gain my own following, and be my own boss. Drunk on unearned confidence, I set out to make my dream a reality.
So, again, perhaps unwisely and perhaps naively, I began (again) reaching for something I’ve never done before. Sure, getting paid to write is great, but covering stories about athlete’s ex-girlfriends? That’s the definition of dumpster writing. I was in need of yet another detox.
As the vaccines rolled out, I looked at my surroundings with new eyes. I moved to Los Angeles two years ago, searching for a way to live off my words. Back then, I thought it might be on stage. Back then, I did the most cliché thing possible, devoting most of my time and money to a silly little game called improv. I joined the famed Upright Citizen’s Brigade and was sure I had punched my ticket to stardom. While I had some good times, I found the UCB system to be yet another petty pile of crap. How could I be surprised? Los Angeles itself is nothing more than a sprawling, diarrhea-filled bodega bathroom you might be forced to use on your way to Mexico.
But I’m getting off track. This is about my travels, not about my reasons for them. Suffice to say, I needed a break from Los Angeles, and indeed the United States. When Cristina, my ever-patient saint of a girlfriend, suggested we vacation in the south of Spain, I jumped at the opportunity. For the first time in a long time, I was leaving my apartment, donning a mask, and leaving the infinitely sunny Los Angeles behind.
Our trip to Andalucía marks the second time I’ve left the States, though it might as well be the first. I can’t even remember the year of my first overseas adventure. It was some pimply-faced time in high school, perhaps my sophomore year. Mrs. Magyourk, a name I will never forget (we used to call her Mrs. MacGorgeous), and her husband led me and a murder of white teenagers on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Our mission? Hell if I knew. Annie Janas, the hottest girl in school, was going. That was the only mission I needed. Dripping in privilege, we tramped through that half-island as if it were our own, proud of our religious imperialism. I remember going to an orphanage and crying because it was quite sad, all the dirty children with their cleft chins and missing limbs.
Then, we went white water rafting. It was vividly tropical and quite a bit more fun. Then we went shopping, bought the typical trinkets, and returned to my birthplace in Georgia, re-assured of God’s plan. Or, at least, of Mrs. MacGorgeous’s.
This trip to Spain would be different in many ways, though I still planned to buy some trinkets. For one - I knew exactly where we were going and why.
Cristina and I meticulously planned our travels, from spending time with her extended family to exploring Roman ruins. Instead of a high school in Georgia, we were departing from California’s city of sin – the infamous, filthy, and wonderful Los Angeles. Our plan was simple: fly to Dublin, fly to Barcelona, take a train to Malaga, and spend three weeks getting boozed on the beach. (Though I cut out alcohol at home, a vacation is a vacation is a vacation is a ... )
We booked our flights months in advance, salivating over the possibilities. A month later, Aer Lingus, Ireland’s most sexually charged airline, hit us with some cunning linguistics. Apparently, there weren’t enough seats sold on our flight, so they rebooked us on another. Our plans changed from a noon flight to an impossibly early departure, one that no sane traveler would ever book. The change in itinerary centered around a ten-hour layover in Dublin from morning till afternoon. Due to the pandemic, we would invariably spend the entire layover inside of an Irish airport. Despite the disappointment, the involuntary alterations did bring about one positive change: instead of flying into Barcelona, we would fly direct to Malaga, our home base for the trip. This worked out much better for our plans, so we agreed to bite the bullet. The travel time had extended from one day to two, three days when you account for time zones. Though the shift was about as convenient as a second asshole, Cristina and I were determined to make it work.
But first: we had to find a sitter for our recently-adopted pandemic dog. We called upon my younger brother living nearby in cloudy San Francisco. Bravely, and perhaps in need of a vacation of his own, Charlie answered our call.
I think Soy Americano is a better name for the project. You have to be stupid in two languages to get it.
It's a bit Vonnegutian, but I think I'll include illustrations with this blog. At least as I see appropriate.
There's much more work to be done. Updates impending.