Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Hills Are Aliiiiiivvve...

My Multi-Cycle Jetlag Horror Dream, 6/9/12

When the dream began, I was living in a palatial apartment in Manhattan – an apartment within an enormous, well-appointed, 19th-century mansion, of a type that long ago either ceased to exist or was renovated and subdivided into apartments.  I was there as a guest, since the owners were some sort of patrons of whatever company I was performing with, and I got the impression the run of the opera I was doing was nearly over, with maybe one or two performances left, and that I had had a decent enough if uneasy time staying there. 

The place had dark, polished hardwood floors which were original to the building, and it was furnished with overstuffed sofas of heavy brocade, ancient grandfather clocks, enormous oriental carpets, and other antiques. I had a live-in maid, whom I’ll call Cilla, and I was the guest of a middle-aged, old-money set of siblings, whom I’ll call Brewster and Annabelle. Other people also popped in and out, including a butler and an older, slightly heavy-set woman whose function in the household remained unidentified. Cilla was a younger woman who had been friendly to me during my stay.

I felt the first pang of dread as I went to the theatre to sing one of my remaining performances. The theatre was old, with ancient dressing room facilities more reminiscent of older houses in Europe than of the relatively plush environs of a 60s-built theatre like the Met or the New York State Theatre. I do not recall anything as being amiss with the performance – I got a bouquet of roses, which I took home with me to the apartment.

On arriving back at the apartment, I was looking around for a vase to put the flowers in when I saw Cilla lying on her stomach on a sofa, whimpering. Someone had slashed both her legs ankle-to-hip with a razor or a knife and left her there to die, apparently. She was lucid enough to tell me that Brewster and Annabelle had been responsible. Fear seized me that I would also be in danger if I reported the crime to the police, but I determined to do so anyway. I tried using my cell phone to call 911, and the dispatcher did not seem to be able to understand what I was trying to tell her.  I hung up not knowing whether police and paramedics would be sent or not.

I was already beginning to panic when the older, heavyset woman came in to inform me that dinner was served (maybe she was the cook, or another maid). She ignored Cilla and her condition on the sofa, and I got the distinct impression that I should come to dinner and behave as if nothing were wrong, lest I also be in danger of some dire fate. I began to worry that Annabelle and Brewster were serving me something Sweeney-Todd-ian in the mystery-meat stew, as they carried out their normal mealtime small talk. Perhaps, I thought, they were vampires, or maybe just mad – in any event, I knew I had to get out of there immediately. 

When I returned to my suite, Cilla was dead. She was still lying as I had left her, on her stomach on the divan, but she was no longer moving or whimpering, and her eyes stared out into the room. There had never been any blood, strangely enough, and there still was none. I rushed to my bedroom and began packing furiously. I had gone to my home in Virginia at various times during the run, so when the older woman came in and inquired why I was packing, I said I simply planned to go home for a few days. She seemed satisfied with this, and left.  When I emerged into the suite’s living room, rolling my bag, Cilla was gone.

At this point, I heard gunshots and men shouting as they chased one another down the hall. At last, I hoped, here were the police! However, that went unconfirmed as I realized that I was in danger from the firefight as well. I first hid behind the sofa (from which Cilla’s body had so recently been removed). After a few moments, I only knew I wanted out of there, and I dropped my bag and ran through a series of hallways, narrowly missed by bullets a few times before emerging into the sunlight in a driveway populated by a number of shining Bentley/Rolls Royce-type cars. I do not recall seeing a police car, so either they might have been unmarked, or the shooters were not police, but other criminals who had some quarrel with the siblings. I wasn’t going to stick around to find out.

Yet suddenly, I found myself not at the palatial house in “Manhattan,” but in a strange, warehouse/dock-like complex in what I understood to be Florida. I had been sent there by the siblings, apparently for my own protection. However, the denizens of this strange community were inbred mutants like something out of “The Hills Have Eyes,” only even more monstrous looking. I was given over to a couple, who seemed to want me as a concubine of some sort. I recall the man grabbing me with enormous, almost super-human strength, and telling me how happy he was that I was there. He had no eyes, actually, and his skin was a waxy white, with a deformed skull that seemed drawn up into a single misshapen ridge at the top. 

Somehow, I was able to break away from him, and I ran for my life. I ran through maze-like metal corridors, at last halted in despair and fright by a dead end.  This being a dream, I did not remain asleep to see the monsters find me, but there I was again, trapped. Through the miracle of the dreamer's deus ex machina, I found another corridor and made my way out of the place, again into the sunlight. The mutants did not pursue me, perhaps out of fear of discovery. 

And then I woke up. This is all about learning Gioconda, right?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The New Yorkers beat Dulles? Naaaah!

A new JD Power survey has ranked Dulles International third-worst in customer satisfaction among medium-sized US airports (Kiser, 2012).  Third, schmird. IAD is by far the worst airport I have experienced in passport control/immigration and security. More often than not, they give half their screeners/immigration officers the day off, even if multiple large transatlantic flights are coming in or going out, leaving thousands of passengers in winding queues in a room so small that terrorists must be salivating. The pre-security passport control queue system is so bad that they have taken to holding hundreds of people (who thought they arrived with plenty of time for their flights) upstairs, unable even to get on the escalator to take them TO the winding queue downstairs, with no preference given for business class or elite frequent flyers.

Once through all the pre-security queues, passengers are reminded that Dulles International Airport is the Land of the Strip-Search Scanner and the Home of the "Don't touch my junk, bro!" Patdown.

Don't even get me started on the horrible little tram system post-international flight, which adds nearly an hour to the trip and which until recently featured rudely shouting "officials" hollering that the tram wouldn't move until every available space was occupied, so exhausted fliers had better move to the center of the car! Not to mention that transferring passengers must claim and recheck their baggage, and those remaining in DC must wait far too long, after the previous long process, to claim their bags - but if the immigration process took too long, a brigade of workers will (even if no other flights have come in and the only flight on the baggage carousel is yours) yank your bags off the carousel and stack them in rows on the floor, which you must search to find your bags, which are then difficult to retrieve because they are lined up so tightly.

After ALL this, another long queue for the 4 customs officers (if you are lucky), then (again if you're lucky and haven't been so stupid as to report your 3 Valencia oranges from your fridge that morning, which will get your bags searched), FREEDOM - to force your way past a crowd of family/friends who always seem to be waiting with signs and anticipation for their loved ones, past impatiently dour limo drivers, etc. Then either the pricey monopoly of Washington Flyer taxis/buses, or waiting for your ride next to all the smokers outdoors.

I haven't flown via La Guardia yet, but I have experienced the joys of O'Hare, LAX, JFK, EWR, LHR, CDG, FRA, and MUC, among others, and while CDG might give IAD a run for its money in the 'vast distances between terminals' and 'lengthy immigration queues' categories, none of the other airports matched Home Sweet Home for sheer, dehumanizing impact on the jetlagged.

Let us not even DISCUSS the air-traffic control system, which once told a nervous United crew I was eavesdropping on (United lets you do this on occasion) that they were sorry, but they didn't know whether there was wind shear at the airport, because they had turned their detection equipment off to keep it from being damaged by a TORNADO which had just passed through. This was after we had been diverted to Harrisburg, PA (where our aircraft-carrier-experienced, ex-Marine copilot expertly landed our Triple-7 on a rather short runway), then bounced along in heavy turbulence/upper level wind shear for some 250 more miles to reach northern Virginia. Yay, Dulles!

Kiser, G (2012) "The WORST Airports in America: JD Power," Huffington Post. May 2, 2012. Retrieved from on June 3, 2012.