3 December 2010 – In transit to New York

View over San Jose, California.

We arrived in New York at 9pm on 3 December. We rode a shuttle bus to the International Student Center (the cheapest hostel in Manhattan) on 38 West 88 Street. A slight administrative error had resulted in our accommodation being booked for the 4th, not the 3rd. The slight administrative error may or may not have our reading of the calendar. The International Student Center graciously found us a reasonably priced bed at the Chelsea Star Hotel (302 W 30th Street). This hotel had narrow aluminum corridors with burgundy floor runners, yellow walls and brassy mirrors. It was loud. Some might say fun. The reasonable price was due to the lack of heating in the room. I checked for bed bugs. There were none. We got dinner at Amadeus Pizza across the road. The Hawaiian pizza was good and cheap. A homeless person got Matt’s mushroom burger as the mushroom burger comprised less of mushroom and more of beef. We walked passed Penn Station to Times Square at midnight. It was as loud, busy and garish as television suggested.

My Entry into America

30 November 2010

We began our descent into San Francisco, California after thirteen and a half hours on Flight UA870. I had managed to sleep through most of Eat Pray Love. Lined up on my jeans were a row of Starburst jellies. I ate them one by one, stopping to yawn and swallow. The pressure was building up in my ears and not releasing. I felt like crap. It hurt to swallow. Outside, the shores of America were in sight. “Oh my gawd!” the Hillsong couple behind me exclaimed, “We’re home. I love America. God bless America.” They broke into a soft rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. I chewed on more lollies. The pressure build-up was getting uncomfortable. The Star Spangled Banner turned into the theme song from Full House as we flew over the suburbs. Julia Roberts shouted at Javier Bardem on the overhead screens. I started to panic – if my ears didn’t pop soon I might rupture my eardrums. “The land of unlimited internet, unlimited SMS and Walmart.” I held my nose and blew into it hard. A thin bubbly squeal like that of a balloon releasing air followed. My ears were still blocked but they no longer hurt. The Hillsong girl noted her intent to kiss the ground when she landed. “We so should.”

We landed smoothly and taxied to the gate with my eardrums intact. As we gathered our luggage from the overhead compartment, the overheads screens turned on and off one last time. One of the crew members came on over the loudspeaker. “We’re having some video technical difficulties but we would like to show you our appreciation for flying with United Airlines. Go to http://www.unitedairlines.com/appreciation for gifts and discounts. Choose from a wide range of duty free items, discounts on future flights, rewards and more” I gave a friendly wry smile to the blonde girl in front of me, wishing to share my suspicion that to redeem our so called gifts of appreciation we would have to spend more money. The girl returned my smile. I felt like I had made a connection. The girl then turned to her boyfriend. “Isn’t that good. Did you hear that? Remember http://www.unitedairlines.com/appreciation.”