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I have been traveling so much and taking so many pictures that I don't even have time to stay current.  So, this issue is a little long but I will tell you about yesterday (9/11) and my trip last week to Vancouver.  
9/11:  Okay, I had to go ahead and open my BIG mouth and I announce to you and to Amber that I will be a flight attendant for the day on Sept 11 (Where ever Amber Airplane (AA) had to fly I was going to accompany her).  Well, I was hoping AA's trip would be something easy, you know like a quick flight to Portland or Seattle.  Keep in mind that Amber is on reserve so she doesn't find out until 7PM the night before where she is going.  She could be called to do anything from Sydney to San Francisco and needs to be prepared to be at the airport as early as 5am.  Tuesday night, when the 19th hour struck, Amber was out running errands (shopping).  I couldn't wait for her, so I looked up her schedule on the computer and found out where she was working.  It was a trip to Chicago, then on to Baltimore, with a measly 10-hour airport layover and return to LAX early on the 12th.  Going across the country for 10 hours was not exactly what I had in mind.  Especially to the DC area after all of the recent threats.  I just sat there and shook my head at the computer screen in disbelief. 
I sent an email to my family where I would be on Sept 11 and not a minute went by when my sister and father started sending me instant messages like:
"Why do you even consider flying on this day.  Are you kidding me!?  Stay home. Go the next day. Have Amber call in sick!....."     
To make a long story short, they put the fear of God in me.  Then my sisters called and said if something happens to you tomorrow we are going to put "Stupid Johnny" on your tombstone, not Johnny Jet.  Pretty funny, but effective.

When Amber got home all hell broke loose when I tried to back out.  We got into a BIG fight.  We were still not happy with each other when I dropped her off at LAX, and we had a lousy good-bye.   Amber Airplane was very emotional and adamant that she work on Sept 11 and I could see how much it meant to her.  I couldn't live with myself with that goodbye and I really felt I needed to go support and protect her and live up to my word.  
So I drove home as fast as I could,  packed my bag, and raced back to LAX.   I parked my car, hopped on the empty shuttle bus ,  and walked through the deserted LAX terminal.
Amber Airplane was greeting passengers at the door and when she saw me board the 757 it brought a big smile and a surprised look to her beautiful face.  
Our flight to Chicago was half full and the pilot made an incredible inspirational speech prior to take-off.  He basically thanked everyone for traveling today and to know that we are making a statement to the terrorists that we are not afraid.  He ended by requesting everyone to take a moment of silence to remember all of those who  perishedlast year.  

People were definitely on edge.  While taxing down the runway, one of the metal cabinet doors fell off and made a loud bang in the galley and the man sitting next to me practically jumped out of his skin.  But once we took off, people calmed down.  The flight to Chicago was smooth and we had a two-hour layover before our flight to Baltimore .  Flying in and out of BWI the FAA had the extra security precautions in effect.  No one was allowed to stand thirty minutes prior to landing (or takeoff).  We didn't get much sleep since we were watching the highlights from the day but we still got up early this morning at 5:45am (2:45 PST) for our early morning flight.  BWI was surprisingly crowded, with long security lines and packed planes.   After a 5-hour smooth flight I'm back in L.A. and I'm proud of Amber for making me keep my promise and, most of all, for her determination and courage.

VANCOUVER: It was Labor Day weekend and Amber Airplane had to work so I decided to fly with her.  I met her at her gate in San Francisco and we flew from SFO to Vancouver.  It's only 800 miles away which translates into a two-hour flight.  Landing in Vancouver, you immediately feel like you are in another country, maybe because YOU ARE!  The airport is so nice!  It has high ceilings, windows everywhere, and an awesome collection of sculptures and paintings.  It also has a running river and totem poles.  I didn't have time to take pictures because when people first get off an international flight, they walk as fast as they can to get in the Customs line and I was no different.  Our walk was loooong and I was walking so fast I had to take a few puffs of my inhaler.  Customs was well organized and we went through quickly.  It's about a twenty minute drive to downtown but we arrived late so we went right to sleep so we could get a fresh start in the morning.  After all, Amber Airplane only had a 15-hour layover so we had to get moving early .  We walked to the harbour , (you like how I spell like the Canucks?), and took the two-minute and two Canadian dollar ferry across to Granville Island .  Okay, so it's not really an island, like when you think of the word "island."  But don't drive because there aren't many parking spots and plus it's much more fun to take the ferry.  The "island" has a fascinating collection of shops, restaurants, theaters, artists' workshops, and some heavy industry factories.  It also has housing and a hotel.
We were one of the first of many to arrive for the day.  So, we just walked around the island to get a feel for it, while we waited for a good place place to open up for breakfast.
The US dollar is so good over there that it's worth the trip alone.  Just imagine everything being 35% off the price tags.  For breakfast, we had an awesome bacon, egg, and cheese croissant for about $3 USD.   BTW: They take both currencies.  I paid with US Dollars most of the time but they always gave me change in  Canadian Dollars and they incorporated the exhange rate, as well.  Granville Island market has great fruit stands and bake shops.  We had to stop in here  for some amazing french bread and an incredible smores brownie for the road.
Vancouver is one Amber Airplane's favorite cities.  She says the people and landscape are beautiful (which they are) and the shopping is great.  Well, we all know how much AA likes to shop, so watch out!  We took the other ferry back (they had two different types) and walked down to Robson Street .  This is the place to shop in Vancouver.  Amber was on a mission to go to her favorite store in the world; Lush .  Amber takes way too long to shop and I am very impatient, so, I left her alone while I strolled down Robson Street. 
You know you are close to Seattle, (2 1/2 hours by car), when you see TWO Starbucks across the street from each other.  Have you ever seen this before?  Not only that, but one of the TV stations is Seattle based.
Lush wouldn't allow me to take pictures in the store for fear of stealing ideas so I went outside and caught Amber in the act of spending lots of money on bath oils, soaps, and other expensive products.
To give you a better understanding of the exchange rate, I walked into a Gap and checked out their sale racks.  They had the same pair of  $9.99 shorts, but when you add in the exchange rate, now were talking about a  real bargain!
It was getting late, so we had to go back to the hotel and get ready for our next two flights of the day.  We walked back via Granville Street which is the eclectic par of town.  It's home to bars, clubs, ,theaters pubs, restaurants, and porn shops that add to the touch of seedy authenticity.
Like a fool, I took the crew's free shuttle (in traffic) back to YVR.  I should've left earlier because when you use a stand-by pass, you have no pull.  I tried to get to the front of the line with the crew but I got DENIED.  I couldn't go to the empty 1K line because I was using the free pass and not a paid ticket.   So I just waited impatiently in a long, slow moving coach line.  I started to get worried that I was going to be stuck in Vancouver, especially when there was only 30 minutes left to departure and the agent says, "You're on the Denver flight?  You are not going to make it."  He then says, "You still have to clear customs and security."  I said," I have to try, so I grabbed my DM, (Departure Management), card and ran to Customs.   As usual, when you are in a rush they are really were slllloow!  The guy who was standing behind me at check-in and was on the Denver flight said to me, "Please hold the plane for me!"  
I was designated to a slow customs line and that man was now in front of me, so I was yelling to him, "Hold the plane for me!"
I finally made it through customs and had to go through security.  I ran around people in a different line to the security line, when they said, "You still need to pay the $7 departure tax."  I ran to the other line that I had just run by and I fuddled with my wallet, pulled out $7 USD, and said, "Here!"  Then ran back to security.   These people were even slower then Customs!  Here they don't just make you take your laptop out, but they also make you turn it on and every other electronic device too.  This takes awhile and seems like eternity when you are late.  I was having problems turning my cell phone on because I pressed it so many times.  Speaking of cell phones, my Sprint cell phone did not work in Canada. 
I finally made it through! Then, can you believe this?  The security lady says, "You're in a hurry?"  I said an out of breath," YES", and she decides to hide the ticket behind her back, like I was a kid.  I almost smacked her in the head and took my ticket.  But instead I grabbed it and ran, and ran, until I saw a lady with a cart who says, "Get in Johnny!"  I said,  "How did you know my name?"  She said, " Amber told me!"  And we flew through the terminal and I just made the flight as they closed the door!
That was the great news!  The bad news is I didn't get to take any pictures of the cool airport except for the awesome all glass jet bridge from the airplane.  

Our two-hour plus flight to Denver went by smooth and I ate a well deserved meal



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Next Week:   Boise

Travel Celebrity Q&A:
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 Business Travel Today






From my friend Luis:
On Monday Sept. 10th, 2001, I was booked on a 7:45pm flight from JFK to Rochester, NY.  There was a severe thunderstorm that evening which caused
our flight to be delayed for a few hours.  We finally took off around 11:30pm and got in close to 2am.

Early the next morning, Tuesday Sept. 11, we began the first day of a three-day conference.  Around 10am, one of our co-workers walked into the room and told us that the Twin Towers and the Pentagon had been attacked. As most people were when they first heard about these terrible events, we were all in disbelief, and immediately went to our rooms to call our loved ones.   At the time, I was living in Connecticut in a house overlooking Long Island Sound.  On clear days you could see the Twin Towers in the distance. When I phoned my wife, she was on the second floor watching the live broadcasts of the attacks.  She was also watching the rising smoke across the Sound through our window.  As I spoke with her, I felt a frightful, breaking tone in her voice; a tone of disbelief colliding with reality.  It
was very strange because as I hung up, I wasn't sure how I was going to get home.

We re-grouped in the conference room, divided all attendees into groups of 4 and rented cars so that we could drive back to Stamford, CT (about 45 min outside of NYC), where our offices were located.  There were also attendees from other countries (Brazil, India, Mexico, etc) who were stuck in Rochester and could do nothing but wait.

I drove one of the cars back and made phone calls on the way of people I knew that either lived in NYC or worked there.  I was able to contact everyone except for one of my closest friends, Cesar Murillo, who had just begun working in one of the Towers.  It was a long and peculiar 8-hour drive back.  The highway was empty; the only vehicles that passed us were either military trucks or Verizon telecommunication vans/trucks.  As we neared the NYC metro area eerie signs began to pop-up that read "New York City is Closed". 

I grew up outside of New York City, and often went to the city to walk around, to hang out, or just to look at the tall buildings. Growing up, Cesar and I would often drive in just for the heck of it. I also went to school in Manhattan and felt very comfortable in the City.  I lived in the village during college and used to love to rollerblade down at the World Trade Center.  The day of the bombing in 1993, I had been rollerblading there just hours before.

When I got home from the long drive that night, I called my friend again, but got his answering machine.  There was a message from his wife that said that they were over at Rhonda's.  It was so comforting to hear that they were OK that a heavy load was lifted from my shoulders and, although I was eager to speak with him to hear his comments, it was late and I decided to call him at Rhonda's the next morning.  I called the next morning and Alyson, Cesar's wife answered.  The news was not good: Cesar was still missing.  I then spoke with his sister and later his mother, but no one had heard from him.  I felt a strange sort of helpless optimism that day; I hoped, wished and sometimes thought he was alive somewhere, but was frightened to death that he might not have made it. 

For the following two days I sat in front of the TV, motionless and emotionless.  No sign of Cesar.  I couldn't smile nor could I cry.  I couldn't concentrate nor could I rest.  What bothered me most was that I was unable to feel any joy whatsoever; I couldn't even smile when I looked at or held my 7-month old daughter, which tore me up even more.  Finally that Friday evening I felt as if something illuminated my thoughts.  I decided that I had to go to Manhattan to see for myself.   The next day I packed a lunch, made a bunch of posters with Cesar's picture on it and took an early morning train into the City.  So many times before had I made the same trek
into Manhattan, it was almost second nature.  So many times had I wanted to go into the City.  But that morning I wished I could turn the clock back to one of those days when Cesar and I would go in just to goof around.  I didn't want to go in feeling such emptiness and such sadness - but I had to go.

I spent all day walking around NYC.  I watched worn out firefighters and volunteers go in and out of Ground Zero.  I saw the tired faces of those who had been working day-in and day-out.  I saw the teary eyes of those still searching for hope.  I saw streets of worn souls, shattered dreams and lost loves.  I saw the rubble still in flames, crushed cars, abandoned shops and dusty streets. I  watched people put up pictures at the armory and I talked with counselors at the Cantor Fitzgerald Center (where Cesar had worked).  I also saw people coming together to mourn and to help, to sing and to cry, to walk and to search.  And I saw people coming to see something no one had ever imagined they'd see, and something no one ever wants to see again.  I took pictures, I grabbed a fistful of debris and I made my way back home. That evening, I told my wife all about the things I saw.  I was able to cry.  And I was finally able to look at my daughter and smile again.


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