Northwest Passage

By Mark David Blum

Travelling east from Lost Angeles is well done if you fly Northwest Airlines. With a hub in Detroit, it is a straight shot from LA to Detroit and then again a straight shot from the Motor City to Syracuse. Whereas our flying time from East to West lasted more than 7 and a half hours of actual airtime, the return trip lasted about 45 minutes. OK, so it was more than that but with a 200 mph tailwind, both flights came in way early and actual flying time was less than five hours.

I still am not a fan of Northwest Airlines for all the reasons in my earlier essay. But you can add to that a certain level of greed and lazy service. Whereas we booked with Northwest but ended up flying Delta and getting anally scrutinized for doing so, Delta did not charge us for a baggage fee. Arriving at LAX this morning to check in for the return flight, first we did not even get the privilege of speaking to a human being; it is all electronic. Touch this, push that, and cross your fingers a TSA employee doesn’t stick his wand up your ass. Most offensive however was that for the return flight Northwest insisted on a $15 charge per bag to fly. This sudden new fee was the ultimate in petty cheapness which is reflective of their overall service. Their snack flight is a snack if you are willing to take out a mortgage on your house to afford the two and a half peanuts. Ask for coffee or soda and you get at most a 1/4 cup. Employees are more concerned that your seats are in an upright and straight position for takeoffs and landing than they are with the peace of mind and comfort of the passengers.

On the other hand all the pilots were awesome and put the best face on the airlines. One took the time to point out every major landmark and city over which we flew. The pilot who brought the plane from Detroit to Syracuse, in giving the current weather conditions said, “the skies are partly cloudy and visibility is 10 miles … the temperature is, well you know, cold. He never gave the exact number but he didn’t have to. A plane full of ‘cusans knows better. “Cold” is good enough for us to understand what awaits us.

Waiting for my return of course were dozens of emails and voicemails. Two were standouts because each had the opportunity to strike up a new life in California. Having already tried that once, I am not that interested absent a contract. But it would sure be nice to take my practice and business up a notch. Or, it could have just been a bunch of drunken old men who did not sober up in time before they started drunk dialing.

It would take an incredible offer to uproot me from my home here in Upstate New York. I tried the LA adventure once and of course it is the City of my birth and youth. All my friends and loved ones are now here local and leaving them would mean seriously disconnecting from all that matters to me the most. Despite my best efforts and years of kicking and screaming, it is obvious as the bulbous nose on my face that Syracuse is my home. Going to LA and living the good life is fun for a while, but it is not me. Hanging around with folks who haven’t a clue about the value of a dollar and who can only discuss in the millions leaves me feeling sad and frustrated. If the economy is in the shits, these are the people who are selling the guilded toilet paper. The only stress they feel is which restaurant to eat at and whether they should buy the new Lexus or the new Mercedes. Decisions Decisions.

In an economy dying on the vine, high rise condos are still being built at an incredible pace. I met someone who was bragging how they got the top two floors of one such high rise and only paid $58 million. Considering they just sold their home for $160 million, the condo is such a steal. These are the tales that make me cringe because I know first hand how it is to be hungry day to day and have to watch how every penny is spent, I never begrudge someone their success and always wish everybody the best of luck, But damn, shouldn’t there be some kind of limit before I can stop being such a nice guy and turn green with jealousy and be overwhelmed with disgust at the conspicuous consumption.

Well, we are home now and life returns to normal. I got some good pointers on a play in am writing and might have even found a producer and a stage. This is good news.

But right now, am going to have a real New York quality pizza, make a real New York egg cream, and sleep the dreams that only a New Yorker can do.

Tomorrow is another day. I am glad it is at home; where my heart, my loves, and my family are to be found.

Back to the MarkBlum Report

It is always a far better thing
to have peace than to be right.
But, when it is not,
or when all else fails

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Manlius, New York 13104
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