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Welcome back! We left off last week on a flight to L.A. from JFK (New York).  Every time I get on that flight -- which is often these days -- I remember there was a time I was terrified to get on a plane. It was actually at JFK where my first anxiety attack occurred. I was 17, and that was the worst day of my life (until my mom got sick). I wimped out in the airport after spending months talking my mom into going on a dream trip for spring break to see my sisters, who were living in Perth, Australia. We were all set to spend time in San Francisco, Honolulu, Sydney, Perth, back to Sydney, Fiji, L.A., and finally return to JFK. Talk about the best spring break ever! 

Well, I didn't get on the plane because, just before we left, I went for a checkup for my newly discovered disease (asthma), and my doctor put the fear of God in me. She said, "I hope you don't have trouble on such a long flight! The cabins are pressurized, so it might be difficult to breathe." I said to myself, "Pressurized? Trouble breathing? How can I spend 27 hours on a plane?" I was already nervous about flying, so I sure didn't need to hear that. That doctor changed my life that day. It's a long story, but after being terrified of flying for the next three years, I finally got over my fear with a lot of love from my parents and an excellent homeopathic doctor who weaned me off my asthma medications. If that doc could only see me now! 

We made it back to L.A. just in time for a fundraiser in West Hollywood. We attended my buddy Scott's legendary Celebrity Bingo at Kachina Grille.  Amber   Airplane insisted we go, because she loves bingo. I couldn't remember the last time I played, but quickly remembered how much fun it can be (nerve-racking too!). Man, we came so close each time. It was killing me, because I was dying to yell out at the top of my lungs "BINGO!"  Unfortunately, we lost all 10 games. It was my first time walking the streets of West Hollywood (also known as "Boys Town"). My gay friends say West Hollywood is only for obnoxious gays. I think they are right, because a guy whistled as we ran across the busy street. I said, “Hey Amber, you even get catcalls in Boys Town.” She said, “That whistle wasn't for me!” I made a gulping noise and said, “That's funny!”  Kachina Grille, 8948 Santa Monica Blvd., West  Hollywood, CA.  

I spent almost a week working from home, and found out as I slaved away in my cave that our new neighbors like to play opera music really loudly during the day. Although I'm not an opera fan, it wasn't the loud music that most bothered me. It was that our other neighbor’s dog loves opera too. What a nightmare. All day long I heard opera music, and a dog howling like he was in heat. Luckily it was time to get out of town, because I couldn't take it any longer.

On Thursday, September 11 we flew to Cleveland via Chicago. This year’s experience flying on September 11 was different than last year. Last year was a lot more somber. This year it was business as usual. The planes and airports were crowded, the flight attendants did not wear special pins, and the pilot made no inspiring announcements.  It's hard to believe just two years ago our lives were turned upside down, and the world got so much bigger for a few days. I was in New York City and Amber Airplane was in Chicago, and for the first time since I was 20 the two cities felt worlds apart.

I'm glad we’re now back to normal. We had an hour in O'Hare Airport, so Amber Airplane and I had a quick dinner at Chili's.  United did not serve food on either of our flights, so we were starving. I love Chili's’ boneless buffalo chicken wings, and Amber Airplane always orders the Southwestern rolls. They both are served quickly, and can easily be taken onto a flight.  

We arrived in Cleveland, my favorite city (snicker) late. Okay, Cleveland is not as bad as I make it. It’s actually getting better all the time. One of the best parts about Cleveland is that taxis are really cheap. Get this: It cost only $14 to drive 20 minutes to Amber Airplane’s sister Erica’s house on the west side of town. In the morning I worked on and baby sat Chloe, Erica's baby, while the girls went out and...ahem, and shopped. What else is new, huh?  When Amber Airplane came home she not only had bags of clothes, but a PT Cruiser.  My stomach turned and I said in a worried voice, "You bought a new car too?" She said, "No, silly, my mom rented it for us, and you should be proud because she booked it through ".  

We were in Cleveland not only to see Amber Airplane’s family, but to go to her childhood best friend's wedding.  It was nice, except Wendy and Joe had a five-hour break in between the ceremony and the reception.  Don’t you hate when people do that?  It means you have to find something to do for five hours, while wearing uncomfortable clothes and trying to keep them clean (which is almost impossible for me). It actually turned out well, because not only was I able to keep my clothes clean, but we discovered a brand new ice cream shop that has the best – I mean the BEST -- chocolate peanut butter ice cream. Holy cow, is it good!  Mitchell's also sells chocolate peanut butter ice cream cake and pie that looked amazing. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to try it -- maybe next time! See, I do look forward to going back to Cleveland!  Mitchell's Homemade Ice Cream, 26161 Detroit Rd., Cleveland, OH, tel.: (440) 250-0952.

Speaking of eating, if you’re looking for good deli food and amazing desserts, check out Max's Deli. I went with Amber Airplane, Erica and Barb (Amber's mom).  Max's Deli, 19337 Detroit Ave.,  Rocky River, OH, tel.: 440-356-2226.

Since we were in Rocky River, I should tell you about a great place for a walk: the Rocky River Nature Center .  This place is very peaceful and relaxing. It's also a good workout if you hike the 100-plus stairs to an incredible lookout.  We took some off-the-beaten-path trails, which were really quiet. You don't see anyone back there, and all you hear are birds and squirrels. I felt like we were in Alaska.  Afterwards, Amber Airplane drove me a few miles to her old high school hangout. Down at "The Valley" you will find an incredible pedestrian-only covered bridge and a lot of waterfalls.  If you have time, check out both places. You won't be disappointed.
The next day Amber Airplane went back to California, with Erica and Chloe. So I decided to see my sister, niece and nephew in Erie. Erie is only 100 miles away, so I took the cheapest and easiest way to get there. That's right, the ultimate transportation bargain: the Anderson link. The bus was empty, and comfortable as usual. However, they raised their prices a whopping $5 to $14.95. Can you believe it only cost $14.95 to travel two hours from the airport? Get this: They even give you free drinks (soda -- I mean pop, as the Midwesterners call it, and water).  Anderson Shuttle, tel.: (814) 456-0888.  

It's always great to go to Erie and see my sister Carol, her husband Tom, and their kids. I was there just a month ago, so the only thing different is that Carol got her TV show axed by CBS. Some new guy bought the affiliate station and cut most of the programming to save money. But that didn't stop Carol. Such a pet lover would never let some new tightwad stop her from finding homes for stray animals. She went to their competition (ABC), which agreed to air her popular weekly Adopt A Pet Show.  Though only a few minutes long, 90 percent of the animals she puts on the air get adopted. She tries to get Tom to adopt the 10 percent that don’t find new owners. This week their new dog is Phi Phi. She is a little cutie, but doesn't stop barking. Hey, I told Tom at least she doesn't howl to opera music.

The ABC-TV station is down the street from the crime scene of the crazy bank robbery that took place a few weeks ago (remember the guy who had a bomb strapped around his neck?) It's a sad story, and all around the area there are signs encouraging people to call if they have any info.  

On a happier note, the station is also near a brand-new Krispy Kreme shop. As we drove by Carol told me she had never had a Krispy Kreme donut. I said What?! and quickly turned into their drive-thru. I went to order her one donut, but she yelled, “Make that a dozen!” That was bad news for my belly. As with chocolate chip cookies, brownies and chocolate peanut butter ice cream, I have no will power around Krispy Kreme donuts. I can't eat just one. I have to eat them all -- and I did.

While we’re on the topic of food, let me say that Carol always makes extravagant homemade dinners for me. And they are always so darn good. This week they were even better, though, because their garden bulged with vegetables. Every night we went out and picked dinner. I love gardens! I also love Wegmans (the local grocery store), so if Carol’s garden didn't have dinner, Wegmans did.

The two funniest things that happened while I was there involved the kids. One hot afternoon while I was checking my email in the computer room I heard Amanda screaming, “Uncle Johnny! Uncle Johnny -- come quick! I ran out to see Amanda standing there with her palm open. She said, “ook what I found in the pool!” This frog was her new best friend. I think she was waiting for it to turn into a prince.       

The other funny event occurred while we were playing golf.  The kids were sitting on our laps and driving the carts. On the seventh hole I stopped the cart between my ball and Carol's, and after slicing my ball into the woods I said to my nephew, "Hey Johnny, can you bring the cart to me?”  I was only kidding (and trying to get a rise out of my sister), but instead I got the cart. Who would have thought a 4-year-old could release the brake and drive?! The dude couldn't even see where he was going, but somehow he managed to bring the cart right to me 30 feet away. That was a bad move, because the rest of the day Amanda and Johnny didn't stop begging me to let them drive the carts.   

Later we had dinner at their country club.

For lunch the next day Carol, little Johnny and I tried a chain restaurant. It's called the Smokey Bones BBQ and it was gooood -- especially the baked beans. Best of all, guess what's their signature dessert -- tasty donuts! Smokey Bones BBQ, 2074 Interchange Rd., Erie, PA, tel.: 814-868-3388.

Happy Travels,

  • Johnny, Great story and pictures as always.  I don’t get bored at all.  I feel you are writing to a member of your family about how important life is and to enjoy every moment.  The section about going to the hospital and seeing your mother’s pictures was very touching – she’s a great artist.  After the events of 911 I hoped all of the US would realize that those we love and care about are more important than anything else and that we’d continue to cherish our loved ones.  I’m glad you continue to “talk” about your mother and how much you love her and how much you miss her.  Don’t stop writing about her and all those in your life.  Geoffrey O, San Diego
  • Johnny, wanted to let you know that I receive your newsletter at work.  When it arrives, I read it and am instantly taken on a quick vacation from the office.  I enjoy reading your reports every week, but this week was a great trip because I was born and raised in Connecticut and have taken the train from New Haven to NYC more times than I can count.  Thanks for the quick trip home this week!  Sunny P - Austin, TX 
  • Hi Johnny, Saw you [on Tech TV] with Leo.  Great Segment. Gail.
  • Best of luck with the continued success of your web site. I don't suppose it's won any design awards, but it's one of the most informative and useful sites I've seen. Matt L - Seattle
  • I'm a JJ newsletter subscriber as well as former Smarter Living employee and love your stuff. Christine - Boston. 
  • Dear John; You have developed a nice easy to read style to your writing. Please read 'On Writing.' I t will help you to continue to grow. I am reluctant to criticize your columns as you need encouragement not negative criticism. But On Writing is an excellent bible for writers. And its very readable. A few pages a day. That's all. Love, Dad
  • I saw the pictures of Bailey Beach on your site that place is frikin beautiful. Kyle - Redondno Beach, CA
  • One way to fight back against cancer:  My wife and I try to do several things in accord with our beliefs about food and environment, things that indirectly should help reduce the risks for everyone. For example, we buy as much food as possible from organic local growers. The local is important not just because that's the best produce but because it doesn't have to be shipped by truck or plane. We also try to buy enviro friendly products - like dish soaps - whenever possible.  And we support progressive candidates in elections. I think Dean's our only hope for 2004. Michael - Sebastopol, Ca.
  • Glad to run across your website on a Google search.  Cool pictures and bio.  You are right about being nice to everyone.  A few customer service letters of praise have gotten numerous upgrades to Jaguars and Navigators with Hertz, and room upgrades at Courtyard and Hilton. Kirk M. - Dallas, TX
  • You should know that it's Grand Central Terminal (GCT) and NOT Grand Central Station! Michael -A Native New Yorker.

    *Please note that we reserve the right to post excerpts, perhaps edited, from your message on the Johnny Jet website and newsletter. We will not use your full name without your express permission. If you'd rather not have your message posted on the website or newsletter, just say so and it won't be.
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We took my niece and nephew to Palm Springs last weekend and took them to the Children's Museum located on Gerald FordDrive. It was fantastic! They dressed both of them in smocks and foot coverings, gave them a small can of paint each and let them paint a donated Volkswagon. It was way too cool. It's an interactive museum with tons to do and we wound up spending half the day there. They have arts and crafts for the children to do, a mini-market with baskets to shop, rock climbing wall, etc.. Anyone with children (ours were 3 and 6 years of age) will love taking them here! Lolly and Patrick.

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    Flying the Unfriendly Skies
    Remember when air travel was an elegant experience that passengers dressed up for? When meals were served on china with real silverware? And doting flight attendants pinned honorary plastic wings on the lapels of wide-eyed youngsters? I do, because I was one of those kids. I was charmed by crew members who made me feel like I was sitting in first class, even though I had a seat in economy. And, of course, I wanted to grow up to be a pilot. Every boy who was lucky enough to fly in those days wanted to be a pilot, especially after a visit to the cockpit. Those days are over. Details in Destinations.
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  • Alaska Airlines' elite-status MVP Gold frequent fliers who pay high fares will receive automatic upgrades to first class next year. But members who purchase discount fares will have to wait until three days before departure before they can request an upgrade. Alaska also is increasing the number of miles needed to qualify for MVP Gold status and the miles needed to redeem awards for first-class travel and upgrades
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Active vacations offer unique thrills for ordinary travelers

Adventure travel can be divided into three distinct categories: guided tours, self-guided tours and independent trips. The latter two offer a high degree of independence, ranging from vacations that are entirely self-planned to trips that come with pre-booked accommodations, transportation and route maps, but no supervision. But for those just discovering the adventure travel scene, guided tours are often the most sensible, and economical, option. Click Here To Read Article

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