"You've probably flown more in the last eight or nine months than I have in my entire life" said my father as we careened down the wide part of La Cienega Boulevard that takes one out of Baldwin Hills and deposits them in the L.A. basin at 55 MPH (depending on traffic, of course). He had retrieved me from LAX after a rather pleasant direct flight home from Santiago, Chile.
I looked at the odometer on the dashboard of his eight-year old Infiniti G20. 108,000 miles in just under seven years. He'd logged enough miles on the L.A. freeway system to earn himself Executive Platinum status on American Airlines. I tried to multiply that into hours as I stared at the lines on his face.
Yesterday afternoon I landed at LAX again, after nearly 24 straight hours of travel from Punta del Este, Uruguay. It's roughly a 6,700 mile journey from Punta, to Montevideo, to Miami International Airport, to my door in the slums of Beverly Hills. Uruguay is one of those places like Hungary or Bangladesh or Guam that one never believes they'll visit. Now it sits on my list along with Chile and Poland and Denmark. Even Pauly cheekily refered to Otis and I covering the "LAPT Uganda" when in fact we were at a tournament in a picturesque South American beach town with Monte Carlo prices.
The frequent filer miles I earned on this journey pushed me over the mark for Gold Elite status on American. Between the miles logged on this journey, the one to Chile, and a couple of trips back and forth from the east coast, I can finally get myself an upgrade at least one way the next time I have to spend 14 1/2 hours in the air. Surprisingly enough, despite all the traveling for tournaments, I've never been an elite anything on any airline.
On this journey, we endured delay after delay. We didn't take off from Miami to Montevideo until 1:20 in the morning, and our return flight was over six hours late, finally departing at 2:45 a.m. Thankfully, Joe Giron, our talented photographer for the PokerStars blog, is like Mega-Platinum Diamond Mine Status and was cool enough to get Otis and I into the Admirals Club both times we were stuck in the airport. That place is like the antidote for travel tilt. Free wi-fi, nice leather seats, a beer or glass of wine before boarding, low lighting, no screaming children, and Greg Raymer playing $40-$80 Badugi in the next seat while I bubble a $27 SNG.
Then, you get on the plane. Back in steerage with the rest of the world.
An infant wailed for eight of the nine hours it took to fly from Montevideo to Miami. I'd sleep for maybe 15 or 20 minutes before being woken up. The Xanax flowing through my system was all that kept me from locking it in the lavatory. I landed in Miami at 10:30 a.m., having blown my connection to LAX hours before. I was re-booked on a 3:30 flight home but was desperate to make one that would take off at 1:20. After clearing customs at MIA, I booked it to the ticketing desk. At the entrance to the queue, I was met by a woman in a bad mood.
"I'm trying to get on standby for an earlier flight, can I do it here?"
"The manager says no standby today."
"Really. My friend just did it."
"Well, there's no standby today."
"You know what? I'm going to talk to someone else."
Good thing I did. After I explained the flight debacle from Uruguay as well as my newly acquired Gold Elite Status I was not only put on standby, but bumped up to #4 on the list of 21. All by finding someone in a better mood.
I was the last person to get on that plane. I had perhaps the worst seat, a freezing, narrow middle one in an exit row that didn't recline all the way, but at least I wasn't spending another two hours in an airport. Next to me was a girl who played on the Australian Womens' Netball team. She was only six hours into a 36-hour trek from St. Maarten to Miami, Miami to Los Angeles, Los Angeles to Melbourne, and Melbourne to Canberra. I didn't feel quite as bad after hearing that, though my back didn't quite agree.
And when I walked through my door, he had flowers waiting for me. As always.
It's time to sink back into routine after the better part of 16 days on the road. Waking up at normal hours in my own bed and cooking dinners for two in the evenings. Shopping for fresh food instead of ordering off a plastic menu. Unfreezing that gym membership again and feeling the rubber-on-rubber pound of the treadmill. Hitting the keys at regular intervals. Pounding out articles, the clock ticking toward the WSOP and another summer in Las Vegas.
AND getting back to American Idol, if I can stomach it. (I have a lot of catching up to do on the episodes, but knowing that Alexis Grace bit the dust last week I have to tell you, my enthusiasm is down and my tin foit hat on.)