A day or so before I fly anywhere, I can feel my blood pressure gradually rise. I get myself into such anxious twists about packing (enough or too much), leaving the dogs, getting to the airport on time, going through security… the list of stressors goes on. Aside from the plane, there’s the discomfort of the terminal, the crowd at the gate, the lame and overpriced food and drink options (though New York’s LaGuardia airport has gotten rather good on that score). It is, generally, an extremely unpleasant experience.
And while I love CLEAR, the eye-scan identification technology that whisks you to the front of the security line, one still has to unshoe and go through the undignified rigors of the TSA’s security process. Also… are we taking laptops and tablets out or leaving them in the carry-on? Can we get the story straight?
By far, the biggest hangup I have about travel is leaving my dogs. I just don’t like being away from them. Even though I have a wonderful dog sitter who takes great care of them, it agitates me and I miss them terribly.
Then there’s just the displacement from the space where I’m comfortable. One of the things that I love about New York City is that the world comes here, often sparing me the trouble of having to go “there,” wherever that may be. I realize that’s an unhealthy, isolationist perspective and that growth only happens outside our comfort zone, but it’s the truth. The good news is that I’m well aware of it and I’m working on it.
But once I land, I chill considerably, enabling me to enjoy my trip without too much internal drama, especially if I’m on my way to a good hotel. On a recent trip to L.A., I had my first stay at Sunset Tower Hotel, the venerable vintage jewel box situated on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. I loved everything about it. My room, Tower Bar, Terrace Bar, the pool, the gorgeous building, the incredible staff… It’s not too-much or over-the-top in any way. It’s just right, and the perfect balm for the psychic assault that is modern air travel. Perhaps a sign of a good hotel is that it inspires no immediate compulsion to leave it once you’re there. You just want to stay and enjoy it. That’s Sunset Tower for me. It’s such a handsome and sophisticated Hollywood old-timer that exudes a truly understated glamour. If it were a man, I’d marry it. But since it’s not, it’ll just be my West Coast HQ when I’m cheating on NYC.
Concluding my four days and three nights at Sunset Tower was another air travel day. And I was not prepared for the shit show that is Terminal 5 at LAX. Good lord. There wasn’t enough seating and the temporary charging stations positioned haphazardly around the terminal didn’t have working outlets. Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan has more amenities and charm. Fortunately, it’s under a much-needed renovation that promises a refreshed glow and better days ahead. Fingers crossed for its future. For now: D-.
My ride back to NYC on Jet Blue was a brand new A321neo with fresh seats, a comfortable recline and charging outlets in each row. And our screens at each seat were new, hi-def touch screens full of viewing options. But other than playing with the interactive 3D flight map, I never use those things. Before I leave for the airport, I load my iPad with more movies, music, podcasts, books and magazines than I could ever need for the duration of the flight. My movies for this trip: John Wick: Chapter 4, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Raiders of the Lost Ark and No Time To Die. Along with the movies and other media, I always meditate and take a nap or two. Barring minor turbulence and no one to flirt with, it was a smooth and uneventful flight.
Whenever I finish a trip and get home, reuniting with my dogs, I always wonder why I stress air travel so much. Then another trip approaches, and I remember right away. (See above.)
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