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120x60 - Hotels JOHNNY JET'S
September 15, 2004
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    Here you can easily perform online conversions for many measurement systems, whether commonly used like metric and U.S. avoirdupois, or exotic like Ancient Greek and Roman. Every time I travel to a foreign country and need to convert anything (usually it's the temperature or distance), I visit this website. The software program covers a lot more than temperature and distance. It also converts weight, mass, capacity, volume, area, speed, time, pressure, energy, power -- even car fuel consumption.

    So the next time someone says something is only 20 kilometers away, don't ask what that is in miles; just log on to convert-me.com and learn that it's 12.43 miles.
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What are the odds of this happening? Last week I wrote about my trip to Erie, and how lucky the folks who live there are because they get to experience thunderstorms, while those in L.A. never get them. Wouldn’t you know it: I flew back home, and the very next morning Los Angeles experienced an extremely rare thunderstorm. How crazy is that? Granted, it was nothing like an Erie storm — the rain lasted just 30 seconds, and we had only one thunderclap. I’m no meteorologist, but I think we had the thunderstorm because it’s been hot and muggy -- last week it was 100 at the beach. People were miserable, because hardly anyone who lives near the beach has air conditioning.

The most productive thing I did in L.A. was meet with Dr. Theo Brandt-Sarif over lunch. Theo is another travel expert, who actually owns the domain name TravelExpert.com" (nice score!). Theo just wrote the book "Guerrilla Travel Tactics", which teaches people how to save money. He also offers travel seminars across the country, through the Learning Annex. I used to do this a while ago, and would like to get back into it. I love teaching people all about travel, from booking online to navigating through the airport. Theo was kind enough to get me back in the groove by inviting me to teach his class -- TONIGHT. That’s right: I’m speaking tonight for half an hour in Los Angeles, then again on Sunday in San Diego. If you’re interested in attending, just click the links above. And if you’re interested in lunch, we ate in Santa Monica at Locanda del Lago, on the 3rd Street Promenade. They serve Northern Italian cuisine, and the food is good. Locanda del Lago, 231 Arizona Ave., Santa Monica, CA; tel.: (310) 451-3525.

The next day I was back at LAX, this time at a United airlines gate headed for New York’s JFK, when I bumped into a friend Michael Shapiro (another travel expert). Michael just wrote a new book, "A Sense of Place." It’s a fascinating read, because it’s about the personal lives of some of the top travel writers (Arthur Frommer, Bill Bryson, Rick Steeves...). What makes this book so good is that Michael traveled around the globe and interviewed the authors in their homes. It was inspiring for me to learn how these people got started, where they are now, and their views on travel. You can buy it at any bookstore, or online (click here for a direct link to Amazon.com).

I was in NY to attend my friend Donny’s wedding. He is my brother Frank’s law partner. You met him back in March when we all traveled together around Australia. He and Suzanne got married at the Whitby Castle in Rye, New York, about 25 minutes outside the city. The Whitby Castle is a beautiful setting, but the highlight was watching Frank and Donny -- who are notorious for singing Shaggy’s "Angel" together at the local karaoke bar -- perform. When it came time to take the garter belt off, Donny told the DJ to stop the typical wedding music, and asked him to put on Shaggy. Frank then threw Donny a baseball cap, sunglasses and a microphone. Their routine was so funny, my cheeks still hurt. Guess who caught the garter? It was pretty funny, because like at most garter belt tosses all the men kept their hands to their sides. I was in the second row, and it was an easy grab for me, but I didn’t hold on to it for long. Actually I probably only had it for half a second. After I grabbed it in one swooping motion I stuffed it into Frank’s vest. He knew I got him good. There was nothing he could do but smile -- and give me his "you’re a dead man" look. Whitby Castle, 330 Boston Post Road, Rye, NY.

I was staying in NYC, and wanted to do something new. It was a gorgeous day, so I figured I would get some exercise and walk the city. New York is great for walking, offering a chance to see almost everything. I took the subway down to the Brooklyn Bridge stop, and walked a few blocks to Ground Zero. I was in NYC on 9/11, and after that day I never had the desire to go back to that area. But since the third anniversary was approaching, I thought it might be time to pay tribute to everyone who lost their lives -- especially a good friend from high school, Cesar Murillo. I’m glad I went, because the city has put together a nice memorial. It’s so emotional to read the plaques, and see the two mammoth holes in the earth where the Towers once stood. The only thing I didn’t like was seeing low-life people trying to make a buck by trying to sell photos from that awful day.

That day I walked about 150 blocks. I went north, south, east, west – and back. It was crazy. I never walked that much in the city in my life, but it was awesome. I even walked through Central Park, and had dinner on the West Side at a San Francisco restaurant; Harry’s Burrito’s. The food was just okay. And would you believe that Harry charges for chips and salsa? What a joke -- only in New York. Harry's Burritos Mexican, 241 Columbus Ave., New York; tel.: 212-580-9494.

According to New Yorkers, this was one of their worst summers ever. They cried that most of the summer was cool and rainy, and the temperature hit 90 only once. What’s funny to me is that the locals always complain how hot the city is in the summer -- and the one year it’s cool, they still complain. Can you make these people happy? I don’t think so. And wouldn’t you know it: I was in town the day the temperature was in the 90’s. Although it was gorgeous, it was way too hot to hang out in the concrete jungle for the weekend. So I packed my bags and took the train to Connecticut, to see my brother and sister along the shore.

We went to Compo Beach in Westport and Bailey Beach in Rowayton. Like most beaches in Connecticut, these are private. If you don’t live in the town or know someone who does, you pay an entrance fee. This is hard for my friends from California to comprehend – especially because the beaches in Connecticut are a joke compared to California’s, where almost all are open to the public.

By the way: Look at what advertisement I passed in Grand Central. Yeah, baby! I can now say I made that flight: the world’s longest! What a nice monkey to have off my back.

Speaking of flying: The next day I flew back to L.A., but it wasn’t on United and it wasn’t into LAX. I took Jet Blue for the first time in three years. I needed a one-way last-minute ticket, and JetBlue at the time was the cheapest: only $144 (including taxes).

JetBlue departs out of JFK’s Terminal 6. (Note: On Friday JetBlue will begin flying out of LaGuardia. This trip reminded me that Jet Blue does a lot of little things right. For example, they make the airport experience much more pleasurable. This starts by having a customer service agent stand in the front of the check-in line, pointing customers to the next available counter so the long line moves quickly. The staff all seemed very happy – it’s so nice to see people smile.

One thing at JetBlue that I need to get used to is the boarding pass. It looks more like a grocery store receipt than a ticket. Not only is it on cheap paper, but they print the ticket price you paid. It’s cool that they don’t try to hide things from customers, like the big six airlines (American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, United, USAir) who have so many different ticket prices. Another thing is that JetBlue does not serve real food on the flight. However, they do offer light snacks like chips, cookies and pretzels. (I found the food inside the gate area to be a lot better (and with more choices) than the options before the security check point.)

However, what I did not like about the airport experience was that the security dudes were clowns. These guys (not JetBlue employees), who were supposed to check tickets and IDs, never looked at mine, or those of the people in front of me. Instead they just said, "Uh huh, you’re good," as they totally stared down this good-looking girl in front of me. I also didn’t like that JetBlue gave me false hope when it came to free high-speed. The gate area had signs boasting that they offer free high speed, but when it was time to log on neither I nor some other passengers could get on. Those who did said it was miserably slow.

Now for the good -- and most important -- part. JetBlue currently flies nothing but AirBus A320s. These new planes are comfortable (they all have leather seats), even though they are single-aisle (I prefer double-aisle planes). The flight was completely full, yet boarding went quickly. At the last minute I scored seat 1C, a bulkhead aisle seat offering plenty of leg room. That brings this tip: On JetBlue rows 2-10 have the least leg room, while rows 11-26 have two extra inches of leg room. It’s usually the opposite on other carriers.

The flight attendants were all very nice. They came around often, offering free drinks and snacks. When I grabbed one bag of cookies one said, "That’s all you want?" I thought, Damn, that’s something you don’t hear everyday. But the best part about JetBlue is that each seat has its own video monitors, featuring up to 36 channels (my flight had 25) of LIVE satellite TV. Channels range from CNN, NBC, the Travel Channel and Weather Channel to all three ESPN channels and Nickelodeon (Click here for the full list.) Live TV made the 5-hour, 40-minute flight fly by (no pun intended), especially because the Yankees were playing on ESPN. How awesome was that? The only bummer was they lost on the final out, right when we were touching down.

We landed at Long Beach airport, which is midway between Los Angeles and Orange County airports. I felt like I landed in the 1940’s. That’s when the airport terminal was dedicated, and the city has kept its original structure. Not only that, but Long Beach uses stairs to get on and off the planes. Even the baggage carousel is outside (it has a roof, but open walls). Too cool!

Next week we check out another new low-fare carrier as we fly to ???

Happy Travels,

Johnny Jet
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  • Great vacation in Erie! Drops of Jupiter is my favorite song!...can't believe your sister throws a little fundraiser and Train comes...Damn! Sam P- Darien, CT
  • Johnny, I love your newsletter.. but I got to know just one thing, What is your job? You are always on the road & it seems as if its a pleasure trip? I would love your job !!! Janet - Woodbury.
  • Those are the cutest pictures of the cutest family on the cutest piece of property I've ever seen. My love and a big hug to your cutest papa. Lynn - Connecticut
  • My sister and I grew up in Erie so we really enjoy your stories about the place. Thanks for all the good stuff. Nancy K.
  • Totally engrossing. Mary M - Skyforest, CA
  • Again, I become transfixed when I read/see your letters. Please keep up the excellent work. You are on the cutting edge, except when it comes to being a Yankee fan. Peter - Irvine
  • Congratulations on your highly entertaining website, loaded with useful information for travelers! Tony - Vancouver
  • I'm from Erie, PA and just booked a trip online with US Airways (paid..no hassle with trying to use miles). I loved your family stories..sound just like mine with my two nephews. I'm looking forward to my ERJ flight from PIT-ERI (like those 1000% better than the CRJ), and my 'new' ERI-PHL flight! It's great to see Erie in the news! Stephen F - San Francisco

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