International Affair/Homecoming

In Iceland I dealt with the same uncertainty as Paris. I was being led by a travel app that was suffering without internet. The time was changing and there was a complete communication haze. I was also sleeping whenever I had a moment which put me on edge. Basically when I got off that first plane I was to transfer to another. I had no clue where to go and Icelandic was not a language I wished to deal with. When I entered Reykjavik I was dehydrated and irritated. No matter how hard I tried I could never see where I was supposed to go real time. So in my stupor I walked a different direction than everyone else to look for clues. It wasn't until I heard an unfamiliar clicking that I realized what I'd done.

I'd been a stupid American who wondered off to a secured location without having my papers checked. I pretty much walked past security into a wing of gates that were closed. There must have been some automatic system of motion sensors or "Entrapment" lasers that sensed me walking through. So when I looked behind me I saw the back of the typically occupied customs booths. I guess the clicks were guns or metal bars or both to stop me. Either way that sound woke me up and steered me back the direction I came. The clicks then sounded again I guess un-arming the secret weapons, securing the bars and calling off the espionage police headed my way. In walking back, I noticed there wasn't a single soul in the entire wing. Just ahead I saw everyone else headed to a perfectly open and manned customs area. 

If you see above, I had an extended London trip as well as several trips home. That was my dummy trip to get out of an interrogation gone bad. I only had one viable stamp in my passport and that was my six month visa granted from the U.K. France never stamped my passport. Neither did Spain. In Italy, we somehow avoided customs. So there really wasn't any information on how and why I ended up in Iceland. Besides my app wasn't working and the internet would cease in customs even if it did work. My interrogation was the longest since London. I had to explain why I didn't have stamps. I had to explain why I chose this route. Believe it or not all I could think about was her. She had no dummy trip, no travel agent and a shittier phone and app than I did. I only saw "Brokedown Palace" for her at London Heathrow. That is all I saw as this uniformed man kept asking me why was in Iceland.

They finally let me through after showing some ticket stubs and things. We all traveled downstairs, through a tunnel and into another wing full of cased dead animals. Again, there was no one around. It was around 9am but there wasn't coffee or anything. The only shop open was a duty free Isk accepting shop full of sweaters, furs and bottles of Icelandic liquor. Apparently the Icelandic Isk had taken a tumble so everything was four for one. I couldn't believe it. I could have had four bear skin hats or four bottles of vodka for like pennies on the dollar. I retreated to the restroom which was a cubicle in a white maze. Inside my own private chamber I used a sink that washed and dried ones hands via the same faucet. I spent a great deal of my layover in there … laughing. 

I left the white room just minutes before boarding call. I should have known better when I got off the first plane. I could have easily just followed all the girls with leggings and Uggs. The Americans were painfully obvious. They were all the rotten people charging their phones, putting luggage on the seats, talking loudly and trying to start some line to get on the plane. Icelandic Air was very snippy about all of that and kindly boarded the plane there own way. We were all individually checked and rode an escalator up to the airbus. The plane was completely brand new, had USB chargers, TVs - there was so much going on I couldn't sleep. I was finally able to charge all my devices. My agent had duped me into a middle seat. Fortunately for me both aisle and window were very skinny and spoke English. The window slumped over to sleep at the beginning of the flight and never woke not even for in-flight drinks. The aisle kept doing crap on his iPad. They were both wearing the same red pants. I also think they both had on blazers.

With window guy sleep I could see everything outside. I was able to see pretty much see all of New York. The flight was so much quieter and smoother than the main voyage. I watched a movie, I listened to my iPod and then it was over. They both jumped up and got off before I could flinch. They were young, agile and immediately turned on their phones to carry out conversations while taxiing. I think I was the last off the plane again. In walking down the corridor I was welcomed with gum wrappers and an abandoned cup of Starbucks. I was clearly home and in the company of commoners and litterbugs.

In the following minutes I made several bad choices all starting with getting off the plane last. I sauntered to baggage claim. I even helped some European girls who couldn't find it. I didn't take my passport out of its cover making customs very agitated. My cover was actually thrown at me. I collected my things pretty fast and I lied about things I should have claimed. I then waltzed to the AirTrain. I didn't have my existing MTA card. I didn't have any money. So I walked around looking for a place to change my pound sterling. Then I had to buy a new card, pay for fare into the city and then I strolled to the wrong train. I took the right one I just opted for the slower version of the right one. All the regulars and airport workers ran for the express so I went another way for a different train. Sadly, that was the slowest fucking subway train in the history of mass transit. I basically watched my life pass me by as I rode for 75 minutes when I could have made it to Manhattan in less than 50.

Of course, I missed my train. I made it to Penn Station basically at the exact time it pulled off. My assumption was all Amtrak trains ran late. This wasn't the streamlined, accuracy of Europe - this was the shitty railroad of America. I was wrong. I was frazzled. I took the wrong exit which landed me clear across from Penn Station and at street level. It wasn't easy either to drag all my bags up there. I had people look at me as though they knew I was doing the wrong thing but they were silent. By the time I realized my mistake it was easier to cross the street and go through the main entrance. Had I gone the right way I could have made my train. Technically, I already had my ticket and all I had to do was get on. The right way would have landed me near the PATH and Amtrak portions of the station. Now I would be entering near ticketing, shopping, the subway etc. 

So I'm walking past all the places I hate. I'm near the Hotel Pennsylvania. I had to cross multiple little streets. Then I had to get to the front of the station where its nothing but escalators and stairs. I've been here before and each time I'm the idiot getting pummeled trying to figure out the best route. Thankfully, for the first time in my 32 years of life I saw the elevator to my right. Of course, I could hear people getting on it and they took forever to get off which had me standing there. All I could see is my train leaving, me having no way to buy another ticket, no method to call anyone etc etc etc. I'd given most of my exchange money over to the subway. I would be stuck in the city I hate the most.

Once downstairs, I had to run past places like Au Bon Pain and Jamba Juice. I had to smell the aroma of freshly made pizza and cinnamon rolls. I was running for no good reason. I'd already missed my got damn train. So when I go to Amtrak and saw the entrance to the platform for my train I ran to get in. I was stopped by some ballsy guy who informed me it had left the station just five minutes ago. I yelled about the trains always being late and of course I was told "not here" and "baby". I had a cussing fit right there. I finally just made the line for people with questions and problems. That was another ten minutes rolling my suitcase and sighing. The young lady I got had zero answers for me. She offered me a next day ticket for $130. She offered me other cities in the same direction. When I began to cry she suggested I go to some business office to my right. There I would be able to talk to someone about alternate arrangements.

In this situation room of sorts there was a woman dealing with an old man. She was listening to his complaints all the while collecting things and putting them in her purse. She was obviously leaving for the day and didn't have a resolution for him. Meanwhile, I was standing there crying. Finally, a woman came over and I explained my situation. I explained how I had no phone, no money and I needed to get home. It angered me to have to tell it all over again. It angered me that I'd taken the wrong E train. It angered me that I was referring to North Carolina as home. The more I thought about what I was saying the more I cried. The woman took my ticket and disappeared long enough for the other to stop working with Papi. She asked was I being helped. She asked what my problem was. She said that other lady would take care of it. So I just stood there wiping my face with the back of my hand and waited.

So the woman emerged with a real ticket. My e-ticket was no where but there was a crisp  ticket with my name on it. She then gave me another form and explained what she had done. I was on the next train to Washington, D.C. and there I would find my train on a layover. The timing would be spot on but I could board it as if nothing had happened. Everything was free of charge. The other woman then handed me a landline phone to call family. It was the first time I heard my mothers voice in over a month. I cried so bad she couldn't even gather what I was saying. Both women collected their stuff and went home so I didn't get the chance to catch their names or thank them.

I had about twenty minutes before the D.C. train. So I was able to collect myself, use the restroom, change shirts and take the elevator down to the platform. I was able to board the business car and sit in the luxury seats. I sat with two business people and we rode right through where I grew up. We talked about my old stomping grounds and then I saw one of them take a call and answer some emails. I realized I had free wi-fi the entire way down. I was able to message my mom. I was able to Tweet my delight. I could see my old school, library, the hospital I was born in - everything! I was so elated my hunger came back.

For the first time ever I was walking to the American "bar car". I'd grown up on formal train dining on the Auto Train. I'd never been on the subway for 75 minutes until today. In Europe, the bar car was heart of everything - where the men were, where you could take a call, where people played cards & dominos, where the cheap wine was .. Here I purchased a $4 hot dog. I expected a freshly boiled beef dog, placed in a steamed bun. I knew there wouldn't be Sabrett onion sauce or kraut, but I expected to see packs of ketchup, relish and mustard. My hot dog was beef, a Hebrew National at that - but it was microwaved. My hot dog had been in a bag for only god knows how long and placed in an industrial nuker. It was then thrown in a cardboard snack box and so was my change. I returned back to the table to open my plastic steamy puff to a dry dog and bun. I think the damn bun was multigrain which made it worst. I had one pack of each condiment. And of course the dreaded single napkin. I was so hungry and broke I didn't think of a drink. Thank goodness I had my Icelandic Air complimentary water bottle in one of my bags. It was a paupers meal indeed. The only food I would have for the next ten hours.

Soon the train was devoid of suits and only tourists like me were left. All of us looking out over the Potomac and hoping to see the White House. I didn't get to see a single landmark but I did use the station restroom. Like clockwork there was a boarding call to my original train and I only had a few minutes to catch it. Lucky for me there was some seating issues so I wound up being lined up on the platform for a while. A girl and I carried on a conversation and we wound up being seated together. We happened to be the same age in two different places. She'd just gotten married and finished her doctorate. She was only taking the train to grade papers in peace. A luxury her professorship afforded her. She had been published. She was well-known. She even offered me her credentials. In the end, I had to use her phone to call home again. I got off when she was fast asleep - the train was now four hours late. I arrived "home" at 1 in the morning. There was no fanfare, no food and no dogs. The station was closed, some huffy lady unlocked the elevator for us and that was that. 

We drove with me as the passenger in my car. When we pulled in my dogs barked as though there was an intruder. Once inside they didn't greet me like you see in homecoming videos. They just sort of walked among my bags and sniffed at my ankles. I can't recall if I took a shower or not. I just remember being escorted to the back room as requested. The bed was made in my own sheets brought from Florida. There was a fan for me to use as I pleased because they don't use the air conditioning. I was offered my moms chargers to take care of my dead phone and laptop. The next morning I was taken to a Greek diner for breakfast. I had pancakes and home fries. The waitress brought me syrup purchased from the Family Dollar next door. I think our food in total was about $10 and people I went with fought over that bill. We then went to the Spanish store on the other side for homecoming fare. I believe I was given $20 and told to stay in budget. I emerged with a chilled 2-litter of Country Club. 

In the following days and weeks I was never asked anything about my trip. In fact, this blog is my only outlet. I made a special album of art and antiques for my mom and she has yet to look at it. No one noticed my exquisite tan lines or loss of about 15 lbs. I was just taken out to places they thought I may have missed like Olive Garden and Golden Corral. I wasn't even asked much when I started the process of selling off my camera and desktop computer. My mother had a myriad of doctors appointments lined up along with my grandmothers. So most days it was just us going to medical parks and eating out. When home I just worked on creating a slideshow and tried to get my dogs to remember who I was. It was nice for a short while. I had no phone to ring. Most people didn't know I was even home. I was off the grid. Or so I thought.

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