BEFORE WE BEGIN. . .
It's time once again for the annual Hawthorne High School Comic Convention. This is a great little show for a good cause -- the high school art program -- that brings out a lot of big name local talent.
This year's roster includes Gene Colan and a cast of characters including, but not limited to:
Mike Oeming, Mark Texiera, Ivan Brandon, Rags Morales, Tom Raney, Mercy Van Vlack, M. Sean McManus, Louis Small Jr., Buddy Scalera, Jim Salicrup, Danny Fingeroth, Mark Schultz, Joe Sinnott, Ian Dorian, Scott Roberts, Tania Del Rio, Joe Giella (Tent.), Tommy Castillo, John Workman, Bob Wiacek
They have some small classes there and discussion panels. I imagine they'll be doing the art auction again. It's really a great chance to get to talk to some nice artists without a huge crowd or lineup surrounding them. Plus, local dealers will give you some terrific deals on cheap back issues.
And it's all happening this weekend:
Saturday May 12th, 2007
10am - 4 pm
Hawthorne High School
160 Parmelee Avenue
Hawthorne, NJ 07506
Admission is still only $3!
For more information, check out their website. If you're in the area, go out there and support a good cause and a fun show. I'm going to try my hardest to get over there for a couple of hours, myself.
AND HE'S BACK. . .
Sorry for the delay, folks. The good news is, the wedding and the honeymoon went off without a hitch, relatively speaking, and I'm back at home now ready to start my new life.
Unfortunately, I've not read more than a comic or two in the last two weeks, so I'll beg your indulgence one more week. Since I won't be participating in Con Season this summer, I thought I'd deliver my annual tale of woe and travel early.
This, then, is --
MY HONEYMOON TRAVEL DIARY
We arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport at about 6:00 a.m. Sunday for our four hour flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to be followed two hours later by a two hour flight to St. Lucia. When we got to the boarding gate, the first thing I noticed was a distinct lack of people in comic book t-shirts filling the area. I'm used to heading to Newark to go to San Diego or Chicago for a convention and traveling with like-minded folks. This was different. People take flights to places for other reasons? The horror!
Other oddities: There were empty seats on the flight, which I've never seen before in all my flying in the last ten years. And we were first to take off after taxiing to the runway. Not 24th. We took off right away. Was this a good sign of things to come? Or was this the balance to the hell that the rest of the vacation would be filled with?
We arrived at San Juan on schedule, with two hours to kill before the connecting flight would take us to our final arrival of St. Lucia, and one of those delightful all-inclusive package honeymoons therein. "All-Inclusive" is the fancy term for "you paid in advance to get drunk every night." Since I don't drink and my wife is a relative lightweight, I knew my mission going in -- eat an awful lot to make up for that. Where you normally have to stand in line for a long time in San Diego to pay $2.50 for a can of soda and $4 for a pretzel, the resort had a massive buffet for breakfast and lunch that was all-you-could-eat. Maybe the hotels around San Diego should just double their prices and make it all-inclusive? On the other hand, I've seen the Hyatt bar, et. al. during a con. They've probably made the right call.
The San Juan Airport, though, was a curiosity. We only saw a very small section of it on the way out. Basically, we traveled down one long hallway looking for lunch on the way to our boarding gate. At the beginning was a busy, but large, bar and grill restaurant attached to a hotel at the airport. That looked promising for lunch. Halfway down was an overcrowded Domino's pizza joint. It's never a good sign when people think Domino's makes for good pizza. There was a line twenty people deep for those who wished to Avoid The Noid. (If you haven't seen this FAMILY GUY clip, then you haven't lived, either.)
At the end of the hall was a snack bar. This being Puerto Rico, you had a few selections of food that I wasn't interested in -- things that end in "ito" and "illa" -- as well as bagels, hot dogs, and salads or sandwiches.
So where did we choose to eat? At the bar and grill that felt like a half mile walk back in the other direction. We got a seat right away, but then -- nothing. We sat there for fifteen minutes, never saw a waiter, and walked right out.
Ended up at the snack bar. Asked for two bagels. They were out. Asked for two hot dogs. They only had one, despite the grill full of dogs I saw while waiting in line.
Fine. One hot dog and some chips from the newsstand next door constituted lunch for two.
I think the fine folks at Coca-Cola sponsor the whole airport. They are plastered all over that snack bar area.
But for those waiting for the airport horror stories, my favorite part comes next:
The connecting flight boarded on time. By "boarded," I mean we hopped in a bus out to the plane on the tarmac to walk up the steps into the propeller plane. That was pretty cool. I've always wanted to do that. What I didn't want to hear was this announcement from the captain:
"Our flight is not balanced. We need two people to move from rows 1- 3 to rows 16 - 19. Thanks."
I wanted two sumo wrestlers to volunteer, just to see if the captain would ask one of them to move back to balance out the plane again.
I saw later the scale they put under the plane to make sure it's balanced. I'm not sure if this is quaint, or horrifically scary.
But since we made it to St. Lucia in one piece, I won't complain.
Bonus: We were told it was an hour drive from the airport to the resort we were staying at. It was only 15 minutes. Who knew St. Lucia was big enough for two airports?!?
THE WAY HOME
Coming back from any vacation is hellish. All that travel time at the beginning of the week had an end goal worthy of the effort -- vacation. All the travel time at the end only leads to the sadness and despair of being back in the real world.
And when you arrive at the Banana Republic of St. Lucia's Rinky Dink Memorial Airport, you begin to feel the pain. While all the people at the all-inclusive joint had been trained well to make your stay a happy one, the ones at the airport have only ever been trained to, well, act like airport employees. And ask for tips. ("You can tip my buddy over there," one said to me. I wasn't about to disagree.)
I love the $26 "tax" you have to pay at the airport to leave the country. You can only use cash or a credit card. That doesn't sound too shady, does it?
The one x-ray machine they have at the airport isn't all that impressive, but they back it up by personally unzipping and inspecting all the sections of your carry-ons. I hope I didn't amuse them too much with Twizzlers, a NY Times Crossword Puzzle book, and a David Mamet hardcover (which I hope to review next week). Oh, and insulin. Yeah, there's nothing better these days than flying with two small vials of liquid pharmaceuticals and two ice packs in your carry-on. Thankfully, I didn't have any trouble with them. One security person asked me to show them the prescription label for it, but that was as close to trouble as I got. Whew.
Before leaving the boarding gate, though, we had our bags inspected a second time, this time with people wearing white rubber gloves. Very thorough.
We got to observe the working conditions for the guys on the tarmac who bring the airplanes in, though. They don't have ear protection or orange batons or knee pads. Nah, they just run out into the middle of the landing area and wave their hands around, throw some blocs behind the wheels of the prop planes, and start unloading luggage. At least they get to wear orange vests. I think there's about a half dozen violations of American safety regulations in this paragraph already.
Did I mention yet that our flight out was a half hour late? Since there was only a two hour layover in San Juan, we were a little concerned. But how bad could it be, right? There's only about 60 people in the plane, the airport isn't that big, and the bags would come out fairly quickly. Right?
We were warned ahead of time: Upon our arrival in San Juan, we had to go through customs, get our own bags, go through another check, drop our bags off, run through security, and catch our flight at the opposite end of the airport. It only took the bags about a half hour to appear on the baggage carousel, and we were never sure where they were coming from. The announcements changed carousel numbers at least three times. Any time the red light blinked and the noise went off, you could see 60 people, en masse, running back and forth to the blinking carousel to look for their luggage. It felt like something out of an absurdist comedy movie.
But they had the cutest drug-sniffing dog there to keep people entertained! Everyone fell in love. When the bags came out, the passengers turned into animals, for all those people had connecting flights, and they all arrived at the next check point to form two lines at the same time, while carrying all their bags.
Can you say "free for all," boys and girls?
By the time we got to our boarding gate, they were calling all passengers to board the plane. Of course, half the plane was still behind me going through security, so there was plenty of time. We still made it home on time, but I didn't get the chance to get a bite to eat at the airport. When we finally got home about 11:00 p.m., the first thing I did was make a run for the Wendys drive-through for "real food" again.
One other thing: I like the flight home from San Diego better. Yes, it's scheduled to be about an hour longer, but those terrific "tail winds" always speed it up by a good half hour. You don't get tail winds flying north and south.
And those, ladies and gentlemen, will be all the travel horror stories you'll hear from me this year. I promise.
Next week: Comics! I promise!
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