Friday, June 26, 2009

Day 1 - LAX / Sydney

Day 1 - LAX / Sydney

I forgot what it's like to get to LAX on time without sweating the possibility of missing my flight. During my last trip to the airport, I missed my outbound to Las Vegas. After enduring the shame of pleading with the check-in desk to no avail, I promised myself I would always get to the airport on time, ESPECIALLY for an international flight.

My buddy Bob dropped me off at LAX at about 9pm on Saturday for my 10:30pm nonstop flight to Sydney. I packed two suitcases and a laptop in case I found myself in Australia for an extended stay. As I am normally a light packer, this heavy load was uncharacteristic for me. On top of all this gear, I promised my Uncle Gerry I'd hit Duty Free and grab some gin and tequila for him. It's the least I could do given that he's prepared to put me up for what could be an extended period of time. Since I may work in Australia while I'm down here, I brought my suit, and instead of packing it, I decided to wear it on the plane to help avoid any body cavity searches at customs. In spite of the fact that I hadn't shaved in over a week, I made it through all security checkpoints without incident. I checked in at gate 123 (the absolute farthest one at Tom Bradley Int'l Terminal 4) and grabbed an airport chicken pesto panini from a terminal deli. It actually wasn't terrible given my rock-bottom expectations. Since I wasn't sure if a meal would be served at 11:30pm on the plane, I decided to be proactive and feed myself since I didn't have time to eat dinner. As I mentioned, I'm a light traveler, but this is also because I hate packing, and tend to leave it until the last minute. As a result, that meant skipping dinner. But with the surge of adrenaline from skipping town for an undefined amount of time, I wasn't terribly consumed with hunger at the time I was preparing my luggage. Nevertheless, late-night dinner was served on the plane.

After watching Airplane! once or ten times, I tend to steer clear of seafood entrees served on planes, but I was feeling adventurous, so I ordered the seared tuna instead of yet another round of chicken. Qantas is a phenomenal airline not only because they've never crashed (knock on wood), but they seem one step ahead of their competition with regard to amenities provided to their guests. I dreaded this 14+ hour flight because I forgot to pack reading material in addition to the various magazines I brought on the plane. Instead of only showing two movies throughout this long journey, they had a broad selection of on-demand entertainment ranging from Aussie sports to broad comedy. I watched the Extras Christmas special (which I hadn't even known existed!), three episodes of the Aussie version of Kath and Kim (way funnier than the butchered Yankee version), and In Bruges with Colin Farrell. They also had kids' entertainment including Simpsons and Family Guy, but I didn't get around to that. My aunt provided me with about 15 Tylenol PM, and I only needed one caplet to fall asleep on the plane in spite of the bitch seated in front me who put her seat all the way back so that my personal television was 3 inches from my face while I watched it! Thanks for that - my knees are still most appreciative.

After I landed at 8:10am Sydney time on Monday morning, I was eternally grateful for my Australian passport. The customs line for non-Aussies was about 40 deep, and there were 6 lines for Aussie/Kiwi citizens. I waited a maximum of ten minutes before I was waved through. Even though my suspicious bottle of sleeping medication was clearly exposed, the officer seemed to care more about my pre-packaged roasted almonds and confiscated them instead.

Once I landed, I proceeded to duty free to get Uncle Gerry's requested bottles of Bombay Sapphire and Don Julio Reposado tequila. I was then able to retrieve my luggage from the carousel after getting boxed out by other weary travelers and missing it on the first three revolutions. My mum and Uncle Gerry finally showed up after I looked for them in vain for about 15 minutes. Good thing I didn't run out of patience, as that would have been an expensive taxi to Gladesville! Even though I was a bit tired and didn't get a chance to visit the bathroom after landing, I let Uncle Gerry take us on a quick, impromptu tour of Sydney. We swung by Bondi Beach, drove over the Harbor Bridge, and took the some pictures in front of the Opera House. Afterward, we stopped and bought some groceries for lunch, including deliciously fresh (white – gasp!) bread and razor-thin sliced ham. From the outset, I can already tell maintaining a healthy diet will be a challenge here in Australia.

After lunch concluded, I took a much-needed shower, shaved, and watched some Sunday Night NFL action between the Colts and Chargers at noon on Monday afternoon. They get ESPN here in Australia, and while the focus may be cricket, Aussie Rules Football and European soccer, the NFL still gets love from the global markets. For me, it was nice to not have to go cold turkey on football in the middle of the season. On the other hand, I'm glad I didn't stick around to watch my Broncos lose 31-10 at home to the Raiders. What the hell happened to Denver anyways?!?

It was then naptime for Sammy. What was originally intended to be a 30-minute siesta turned into a three-hour power snooze. When I awoke, my cousin Luke had come over for dinner (and to do laundry), and Auntie Carol had prepared spaghetti for dinner. In addition, my two second cousins, Ethan (age 6) and Cooper (age 4) were being babysat since my cousin Sally (their Mum/Carol's daughter) was at home sick. I enjoyed meeting these boys. Although Ethan and Cooper are both afflicted with mild autism, they seem like happy kids, and eventually warmed up to me, as most kids do.
When I left Los Angeles, the autumn sky got dark at about 5:20pm. Here in Sydney, it's springtime, and there was daylight well past 8pm, much to my delight. After I read Ethan and Cooper "Little Red Riding Hood" before they went to bed, the rest of the family and I watched a couple of episodes of this Australian mockumentary-styled comedy show called Summer Heights High, which I found mildly amusing. Auntie Carol served us some ice cream and tea for dessert, Luke then took off to go home, and I brushed my teeth afterward. Now I'm wrapping up Day 1, and I don't think too much is in store for tomorrow except Monday Night-er, Tuesday mid-day football. I need Pierre Thomas to score less than 10.5 points for me to maintain my tenuous grasp on first place in my fantasy league. I'll have more to type as each day comes here down undah. In the meantime, I hope all is well in LA. I hear it's raining up there?

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