Thailand 2010

Training is sport specific

These words ring through my ears as I crouch on my heels taking a short break. There is a rapidly expanding puddle of sweat at my feet. It has to be 107 degrees and is near 100% humidity. My lungs feel great sucking in huge quantities of thick sea-level air. Much better than the thin mile-high stuff I take in at home in Denver. The interminable round timer rings, signaling the end of the rest minute.

Right now, my lungs aren’t the problem. It’s my lower back and hips, they flat out don’t want to bend or move. My arms and legs aren’t far behind them in terms of deterioration.

The hours of Jiu Jitsu I do regularly do not translate to throwing hundreds of knees, and a couple thousands of punches as fast as I can.

I summon what resources I have left and wade back in.

“NoGood, TooSlow, Fasta….Bong bong bong bong bong”

Sakmongkol, nicknamed Mong, is a blur of demonstration, chiding me kindly back into action. He is demonstrating the speed I need, which I clearly don’t have.
I’m on the 5th floor of the WKO building in the town of Pattaya. The tin roof overhead seems to trap and intensify the already sweltering heat. The room is heavy with the smell of Tiger Balm and sweat. Everywhere is the crack of kicks and punches on leather, the grunts of exertion. Right now I’m trying to keep my body from shutting down. Thailand is 14 hours ahead of Denver. My body is trying to tell me that despite the heat and effort, it’s 3am and time to visit the sandman. The sting of pads, energy drink, and stinging hot balm do little to ward off the desire to sleep that is crashing into me like a ton of bricks.

At just under two hours into my hour-long private Muay Thai lesson with Mong, I’m cooked. I’ve got rags for arms, legs and a brick for a lower back. I wave off and tell Mong I’m done. He looks a touch crestfallen, I’m about to be JoeFallen so the lesson ends.

Day one is rough. I haven’t trained stand up fighting seriously in over ten years, focusing on ground fighting for the last five.

In most circles, I’m considered to be in good shape, but this is a different kind of shape. I’m in the mecca of kickboxing, and I’m taking privates from one of the best the country has ever produced.

Sakmongkol has over 250 fights. He’s a retired 5 time Muay Thai world champion who started kickboxing at age 8. Mong is widely held as one of the best fighters to ever come out of Thailand.

Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand. Think Pele for soccer, or Michael Jordan for basketball. I’m here in the motherland doing a disservice to Mong’s beloved art.

Mong remains focused and enthusiastic, I have no idea how.

Doubling over waiting for Chris to finish, I look down. Sweat and dirt are pouring in a river from my reddened shins. Put a fork in me, I’m done.

Chris finishes his training. I try in vain to drink water faster than it’s running out of my body. I stumble down the stairs welcoming the street level heat and chaos as a relief from the sweat-box training room.


Welcome to Thailand

I’m on a twelve day trip to see my friend Big White Chris, his girlfriend Opal, and to train Muay Thai kickboxing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with them. If I can see a bit of Thailand in there, great.

Chris spent two years in Iraq, and is living in Pattaya for six months to train Muay Thai in preparation for MMA fighting. Chris and I had planned a trip to Brazil a year earlier to train Jiu Jitsu together, but a late year employer change left Chris without vacation, so that window passed.

Getting to Thailand, or Purgatory Unlimited

A bit over a year later, I’m on a flight from San Francisco to Taipei. This leg is the longest single leg of my Denver to Bangkok flight, a bit over 14 hours. The plane we’re in is an ancient looking 747. It has an old school dim projector based entertainment system.

Wheels up from San Franscisco, it’s 1am Denver time, and I’m ready for sleep. Then it hits me…. Fourteen hours, Four-teen hours, FourTeenHours, f-f-f-fourteeeennhourrs…holy crap. This is going to be rough.

About an hour into the flight, I’m ready to try to sleep. I pop an Ambien, put in earplugs and inflate a ‘cervical neck pillow’ Basically it keeps my head up straight. Five hours later I wake up, it’s 5-6am Denver time as we’re hustling across the Pacific. Five hours of sleep is about as good as I can get on any airplane. Nice.

I break out my Android phone and laptop and create my own entertainment.

Glad I packed Power Bars

Odwalla bars actually, but past experience has shown me that food is not always available when you travel. I slept through dinner service which was about two hours after take off. It’s hour ten of the flight, and they haven’t so much as pushed a drink cart down the aisle since dinner. It’s hour fourteen since I’ve eaten so I’m noticing the conspicuous lack of snacks.

I’m on China Airlines. Looking around, I think their motto might be:

‘Be happy we don’t crash’

I gobble down 2 of my Odwalla bars that stave off my plummeting blood sugar during the night time freeze.

It’s hour eleven of this flight leg, and I’m starting to bum out in earnest.

I have plenty of entertainment trinkets around me, and the guy next to me is about as good a flight neighbor as I could hope for. I’ve taken stretch-my-legs jaunts back and forth, but really the seat is where I’m at. My ass is numb beyond numb, and I realize I have three and a half hours to go. Holy crap.

I can’t concentrate on my audio book-on-mp3 anymore, and I have no interest in putting in another movie. I’m in that super-tired-but-antsy phase which I can’t stand. As a last resort, I pull my mp3 player and throw it on random. LL Cool J’s “Going back to Cali” comes on, and somehow instantly puts me in a good mood. Thirty minutes of music therapy and I’m feeling a lot better. I throw Zombieland on my laptop and enjoy the irony.

At flight hour twelve and a half, China airlines comes around to offer breakfast. I have the choice of “Chinese porridge” or “English breakfast”. I’m feeling adventurous, but opt for the English Breakfast anyway. GOOD MOVE. I don’t know what Chinese porridge is, but it looks like a runny grits like substance, with peas and chunks of what smells of rotting fish. The Chinese people on the flight slurp it down, so it must be at least ok by local standards. My breakfast is typical crap airline eggs and sausage. I pick at it for a bit and break out another Odwalla bar.

I get to Taipei airport. I have to avoid sprinting down the jetway to get the hell off the plane. Taipei airport is clean, modern, and I can use my credit card to buy coffee. Bonus.

My watch says 3:30pm 3/19/2010, the clock here says 6:30am 3/20/2010…whoa.

Watching people in the lightly trafficed concourse of the Taipei airport gave inspiration for a new phrase:

The Asian Mosey

On display everywhere in the Taipei airport. I’ll describe it, but it really must be seen to appreciate it.

Overall speed is a mosey or a slow paced walk.


The Asians, mostly Chinese, are vibrating, stopping and starting forward back left right non-stop. Kind of like human pachinko machines… Look left, jab step right, bumble backward rapidly, turn head shout, stumble, repeat rinse. Get two or three of them in a group and they can block the widest concourse. It reminded my of my chemistry days and the Brownian motion of particles.

I’m about the only person walking down the concourse. I have a Chinese fellow run across the concourse directly in front of me dragging a pull-about suitcase. I stop abruptly to avoid running into the guy who has just stopped one foot directly in front of me. He looks in a store, oblivious to the fact I’m so close I could headbutt him without taking a step. I’m not sure whether to be annoyed or amused at the complete lack of self awareness. I opt for amusement and try to get around him. As I start around, his friends come in rapid frenetic succession to see him and what he’s staring at. I end up having to sidestep the entire group, who’ve turned into the airport equivalent of the ski-slope-swiss-family-moron. Everyone stopped tip to tail and blocking the way, oblivious to everything else as they chitter loudly.

I thought Americans had a lock on loud and obnoxious?

Observably that is incorrect.

I’m starting to not always enjoy cultural differences.

I pass the time using the wireless and wandering around looking at the art in the gallery.

The face of insanity

Going through the security scanner, I’m standing shoes, belt, and laptop in security buspan waiting for the guy next to me to slide over. A middle aged Chinese man brusquely shoulders into me and shoves my laptop back forcing his way in front of me. I guess because I was not actively fucking the guy in front, the six inches I left between us was simply too much room for him to bear. Perhaps this guy just thinks he’s that cool. I’m seriously unimpressed. The guy who was in front of me slides toward the scanner. The businessman is now languidly taking off his shoes. I shove the now stumbling Chinese guy back and loudly slam my stuff in front of his while glaring at him. I want to punch this guy with everything my body can muster powered by twenty plus hours of travel frustration. He looks shocked, and mumbles “I’m sorry.” Fuck you.

I don’t always enjoy our cultural differences as much as I perhaps should.

Flight from Taipei to Bangkok is about four hours. I’ve been so numbed up by this point, I think I should be able to do this while standing on my head. The opposite is generally happening. I’m so wound up to be in Thailand, excited to see Chris and meet Opal, and just so so so ready to be off airplanes the time passes slowly….very slowly.

I arrive in Bangkok and clear customs without incident. I head to baggage. First impression, it’s hot here. About 100F with near 100% humidity. The last time I felt heat like this was a summer in Tallahassee. I’ve lived in Colorado for the past ten years, so I’m pretty unaccustomed to this type of heat.

I see the sign that reads ‘All Bags In’. Oh shit, mine are not in. Uh oh.

Opal and Chris had sent a bunch of things for me to bring over from the US with me. I get two free bags, so no worries about the mule-action. This lack of baggage is a serious crimp. One, I have no idea where I’m staying. I don’t think China Airlines has an address for “Opal, Chris’s girlfriend” Two, Chris had shipped a decent chunk of cash’s worth of stuff that was in one of the suitcases. My suitcase consists mostly of training gear and flip flops, so less of a big deal there. Three, and perhaps most importantly, I’m getting a serious case of monkey butt. I’d guessed correctly that the plane would be freezing at night. Now I’m standing in jeans I’ve been wearing for pushing 30 hours in this scorching heat. Score ten bonus points for my wife Sherrie, who suggested I pack cargo shorts in my carry on. Ahhhhh…..

I talk to a nice Thai fellow who fills out a form for the lost baggage, and tells me to call when I get a delivery address for the bags, which may show up later today.

I see Chris standing outside baggage and relay the grim news. Baggage annoyances aside, seeing Chris is a welcome sight. I don’t have a phone number for him. Also, I don’t know how to use a phone in Thailand. Best I had as a plan B was to use an internet cafe to send him an email if things went awry.

Chris calls Opal, who he notes: “Gets things done.” Opal is on the case, and we’re in an air conditioned car hurtling toward Pattaya. No longer in an airport or airplane, so things are not bad at all.

I’m seriously out of it. It’s been about thirty semi-stressful hours door to door. I’m hoping to not flunk lunch too badly meeting Opal in this state.

Chris and I pass the time by exchanging stories as Bangkok fades in the rear view mirror.

We arrive in Pattaya, and I get my first real taste of city traffic in Thailand. The word chaos does not do justice to what is going on around us. We pull up to a nice house on a small compound off one of the main drags. I meet Opal. She seems awesome and suggests we get some food. We head to a restaurant called MK and Opal orders enough food to kill us all. I’m semi-delirious and will try anything. Much of the stuff appears a bit odd, but tastes great. The Thai soup Opal ordered stole the show for me. Hot and spicy, lots of flavor, just perfect.

I try one of the weirder things, ice cream with corn, kidney beans, sticky rice and a few other tidbits thrown in.

This was just a bit too odd for me.

Opal appears amused by my manic rants, and suggests we head to the beach to grab a beer or three. Many beers and laughs later, I tap out for the evening. I made it until 9pm or as my body is telling me 7am….VICTORY!

Life of a pro athlete, not shabby

The daily routine is set. Wake at about 8am. Grab coffee and some food or protein shake, then wander to the gym at 10am for private training with Mong. The heat is nice as Chris and I amble the few blocks to the WKO gym. By the time we’ve climbed to the 5th floor, we’re already sweating. Two hours of pad work, bag work, jump rope, shadow boxing and such later, we’re cooked. Opal often joins us to train and plays translator where necessary. Leaving we grab food, take a shower and nap until about 3pm. At 3pm repeat and rinse. Ahhh…this is not bad. I’m not sure what pro athletes are complaining about. When you have no other commitments, a two-a-day is not only doable, but fun. The combo of food and rest allows me to do what would otherwise be unthinkable amounts of training. A workout a day with a nine to five job is much harder to pull off.

Hospitality unlimited or, no Opal, I can’t force down another delicious bite

“Have you ever had mango and sticky rice for dessert?”

“No, but I love mangos”

“Thai mangos are great”

“Ok, I’m in.”

“Great, I know a place we can head after this, they have great mango and sticky rice”

“You mean NOW?”

I’ve waved off on the plates of food heaped in front of us a while ago. The thought of another bite seems unfathomable. Opal is determined. I have to wave off, again and again.

This is a common occurrence.

I’ve had to change my strategy. From “No thanks, I’m full” which does little to nothing to dissuade Opal, to “Yes I’d love some…TOMORROW!” which seems to work a bit better. Merely mostly ineffectual. Everywhere we go Opal is combing the area for local delicacies which are invariably delicious. Chris and I wonder aloud if Opal thinks we’re in sumo training, rather than Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai.

It is simply impossible to have a better host than Opal. She’s so good as a host, it makes me fearful for when she gets to the US and the tables are turned. I can not be as good a host as she’s been to me. From offering her recently empty guest house, to giving the insiders tour of Pattaya. Everything is taken care of from pre-training meals, to the best-of tours with temples and beach time. Opal has collected the very best-of in Pattaya and rolled the vendors and their phone numbers into her phone. Every food whim is satisfied by a speed dial press, then a polite knock at the door thirty minutes later.

Since I’m taking advantage of their guest house being open, I feel i should at a minimum be picking up the tab for food when we eat out. Fail. Epic. Repeated. I have no hope. Opal is the only one at the table who speaks Thai, and is not hearing of me grabbing the check….ever. Ok, she let me grab the check at the Hopf Brewery downtown, but that was after a week plus of picking up everything, chauffeuring us around, feeding us, feeding us, feeding us…just crazy.

It goes without saying, hanging with Chris and Opal made Thailand far better than it would have been without them. There is no way to express my gratitude at having such awesome hosts.

Thanks to Lion and Tripod for the hospitality as well.

Training with Mong

So what’s it like training with one of the best in a sport? I have never felt more retarded in my life. Mong is a great teacher, but I felt extra short bus ready. Throw in his thirty plus years of doing this as a pro, and I felt like I was getting walk on water lessons from a ninja when I was wearing concrete boots. He seemed to have a sense of humor about it, so all is well. Mong might be about the most frightening person I’ve ever stepped in the ring with. His subtle movement, efficiency and unreal footwork combine in a seamless tapestry of destruction. Even at low speed it’s easy to see just how strong the force is with him. Feigns, hands, knees, elbows all come with unreal efficiency. The proof of his skill as a teacher is evident in Chris. Chris’s progress while working with Mong has been meteoric. I pity the guy who stands trying to trade with Chris, he’s going to get a bad deal.

After getting beaten down in Muay Thai, it was nice to retire to the air conditioned matted 3rd floor for some quality Brazilian Jiu Jitsu time. Ahhhh…familarity. Oooofh, oh yeah, THAT’S why they call him Big White Chris. Chris has really improved his game over the past couple years. I’d forgotten just how darn strong that guy is. Throw in smooth tight technique and it’s badness for me if I let him get grips and setup before moving. After a few mistakes of that ilk, I try to make it a priority to not let Chris grab me. We have a great time rolling and trading tricks.

Opal joins the fun. Opal has the distinction of being the first woman in Thailand to receive her Brazilian Jiu Jitsu blue belt. Mauricio Zingano awarded her the much deserved rank a few weeks earlier on his trip out to see Chris. In retribution for the hospitality Opal has shown me, I introduce her to Tabata intervals.

Thai massage

I’m hurting beyond hurting. Jet lag and two-a-days are kicking my ass. Opal asks ‘Do you want to go for Thai massage’? Oh yes. Opal books us into the two hour massage and off we go. The place is seriously upscale and we all get into pajamas in the same room. Three middle aged Thai women come in and get to work. Ouch, Ouch, Ouch….ahhhhhhh! The best way I can describe Thai massage is a combination of Swedish massage, forced yoga poses, and Jiu Jitsu submission holds…all mixed together.

At one point, my little lady is grabbing my foot at the toes and ankle and yanking while using her other two feet to alternatingly kick into my hamstring. Oh wow did that hurt so good. If Opal had allowed me to pay, it would have been $14 for the two hours. Whoa…gotta love the exchange rate. After the massage, we tipped our ladies and went for…wait for it…..more great food.

While munching away at a roadside stand, I ask Opal if there’s a way to tell massage places from the ‘just massage’ to the more full service massage places around Pattaya. She thinks about it, then cocks her head and offers.

“No, not really. The place we went is a large national chain and is upscale…the ones closer to Walking Street are shadier”

During my visit, we go back three times for the wonderful torture that is Thai massage.

Beach time

Chris and I stayed up WAAAAY too late after a two-a-day training session and drank the bar dry. Ok, the bar wasn’t even close to dry, but we were out of mixers. Times were desperate, and we had to improvise.


The next day it was decided we should head to the beach due to ringing ears and the midget that was toe kicking our temples.

Opal eschewed the beaches around Pattaya as too crowded, so we take a nice drive to Sai Keaw beach. Quite scenic with bathtub warm ocean water.

Seeing some temples

Opal intones there are two types of temples, Chinese and Thai. She suggests seeing one of each.

Chinese Temples

First stop, the Chinese temple. Wow, ornate beyond ornate. I really got the sense the people responsible for creating this temple had all the money and resources they could ever want. Chris, Opal, and I mill about and snap photos.

It’s about a million degrees and upon leaving the temple, Opal suggests chilled coconut water. It’s fantastic and very refreshing.

Thai temples

We quest in Pattaya for the Big Buddha. Driving into the hills we stop at a decidedly lower key production. The Thai temples seem to be more about spirituality and Buddhism rather than a display of opulence. There are a variety of dogs and cats milling about. Although some of the dogs have mange, all appear to be well fed. There are a few monks in robes sitting about, and we stroll up the hill to view the Buddha and his friends at a closer range.

Chris and I are chatting and snapping photos when we realize Opal is about to go all Sherrie-nator on a stupid woman at the temple. To improve your Karma, you can buy a small sparrow in a cage to release, and purportedly bring good luck. The birds are sold near the bottom of the hill, and the thought is to take them to the top and release. A decidedly un-smart woman opened her bird’s cage door with one of the cats sitting a foot from the cage. The cat proceeded to pounce on the bird and devour it. Opal gave the woman both barrels of dressing down, with the woman managing to have a shocked-stupid look on her face. Her reaction was reminiscent of the useless woman from the first Transporter movie.

Really? You couldn’t put together than releasing a bird right next to a cat would…perhaps…be a bad idea?

Maybe I’m jaded about my country by watching Cops and finding the website, but it’s somewhat reassuring to realize America doesn’t have exclusive rights to stupid.

We decide to take a few hours to head up to Bangkok, as the South East Asian auto show was in progress. Parking was interesting to say the least. As we back into a space, they are parking cars perpendicularly directly in front of our truck. The cars in front of ours are left in neutral with no parking brake on. When you need to get your car out, you can push two or three of the cars and roll them back or forward as necessary. Put your brake on? No worries, the parking attendants have a little jack and roller deal they can use to pick up a vehicle to slide it about as necessary.

Lots of fun cars, but the exchange rate is crazy. A $30k BMW is going for $150k USD. Whoa. I’d have thought cars would have been cheaper over here, given they have less distance to travel. We get to see a Lexus LFA…wow. Other than that, the show is lousy with car porn everywhere.

Are you  trendy fun rider? If so, they may have the scooter for you!

Walking Street

Chris, Opal, and I head to Walking Street. I’ve been told you’ve got to go at least once. Wow, it would seem everything you might have heard about Thailand is true. It looked like everything you could want is available on walking street for a few Bhat. Opal is part of a bachelorette party, so Chris and I tag along to check out the bars. One of the girls in the party puts her bunny ears on Chris. I demand bunny ears, so Chris and I spend most of the rest of the night with bunny ears on.

Weirdly, on Walking Street, this isn’t breaking the top two hundred weird things you can see in ten minutes. I know this because Opal took Chris and I into a bar and OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!?!?!!

Got all two hundred weirder things in about ten minutes…check…check….CHECK PLEASE!
We rejoin Opal’s friends and proceed to a variety of bars, all in maximum party mode.

One of the more unusual bars was an ice bar. Basically a meat locker with ice bar and a plastic wall to see out from. It was refreshing after the sweltering nighttime heat.

I’m in freak show overload. Deep into our cups, we decide to bail, leaving the bachelorette party in fully swing.

Chris, Opal and I head to Burger King at whatever in the morning. After the overwhelming weirdness of Walking Street, a familiar taste and environment was quite welcome, even if it was Burger King.

Something tells me this wasn’t the only place on Walking Street where you could have it ‘your way’.

It was great to see Walking Street, and better to leave Walking Street.

Thailand notables, good and bad

The Thai people are friendly, warm, and honest. For the level of poverty the average Thai endures, the Thai people are remarkably trustworthy. I asked Opal about the lack of crime and she mentioned it was probably because no one goes hungry in Thailand. If they don’t have money, they can get food at the temples. I would not fall asleep on Walking Street with $100s coming out of my pockets, but in general the cities seem really safe.

The random smell of ass in the streets. There is the definite smell of open sewer around in Thailand.

The food is spectacular and cheap. My view of Thai food was skewed by Opal taking us to great places and ordering for us. Thailand has better food than any place I’ve been. Awesome flavor. Great spice, just perfect. I love hot food, and Thailand did not disappoint.

Everything in Thailand can be had for just a few Bhat. This is both good and bad.

The cops are corrupt enough to where Pattaya has “Tourist Police”. Tourist Police? After seeing a sign for “Tourist police, 100m” I asked Opal about this.

“Is there a difference between police and tourist police?”

“Yes, the regular cops are far too corrupt to have them deal with tourists”


Worst of Thailand

Tourists in general, Chinese in particular. Because Thailand is generally cheap and seems to be accepting of foriegn quirks, there are a lot of fringe-foreigners about.

I’m not sure why, but the Chinese I ran into in Thailand did not represent themselves well. It might just be the class strata that gets to travel, but the 40ish-50ish year olds on the Chinese tour buses seemed to be rolling kookfest-mobiles. From screaming in quiet places, to pushing and shoving their way about, the Chinese we ran into in Thailand seemed like overgrown two year olds in full-on tantrum mode.

This was in heavy and poor contrast to the quiet and polite Thai people.

Pedophiles, ‘creepy ice cream dude’ sets the standard. Yep, the downside to anything goes is anything goes. The sex trade is big in Thailand, and there isn’t much in the way of age limits. Getting ice cream after a meal we notice a caricature of a Tarantino movie creepy-dude stereotype. A white guy, maybe in his mid 50′s with yellowish skin, beady eyes, sallow sunken cheeks and a gut dumping out the front sat getting ice cream. His lizard like tongue darting back as his twitchy gaze kept shifting around the room. Sitting across from what looked to be a ten year old Thai girl. Just freaking creepy. He became our gold standard pedophile icon, ‘creepy ice cream dude’. Chris and I enjoy his increasing discomfort as we glare at him while eating.

Traffic, although this could be construed as amusing. No rules, just go. I’d describe it, but it really needs to be experienced. Many of the Thai drivers keep their headlights off at night so they don’t run down their batteries……yes, you read that correctly. Wrong way, lights off, middle of the road at midnight? No problem.

This was a bad picture taken at night. If you look closely, you can see five people on this scooter.

Volunteer police. Perhaps the most universally reviled people in Pattaya. Guess they didn’t think through (or care) about the notion of authority without responsibility. Everyone everywhere hates the volunteer police.

Trip home. Purgatory revoked, head South

In keeping with the Opal gets things done maxim, the driver she’s hired shows up promptly at 4am to take me to Bangkok. An as-fast-as-the-car-goes drive to Bangkok and I’m at the airport in an hour. Great. I have an 7:30am flight, so stand in line at Air China for an hour before ticket people get to the counter. I grab a crappy breakfast(should have done McDonalds) then have time to kill. My neck is jacked up, so I take advantage of BKK’s massage studio and get a good 45 minute massage.

The flight from Bangkok to Taipei is uneventful, except for my next seat neighbor. A Chinese man comprised solely of wrinkles, perhaps a million years old plus or minus, is next to me in flip flops. He keeps pulling his scaly feet out of his flip flops and rubbing them on the bulkhead wall in front of me, then rubbing them together over and over. I can see chunks of dead skin flaking off his feat wafting through the air when he does this. I’m trying to keep my breakfast down. This continues for the rest of the flight to Taipei.

I don’t always enjoy cultural differences as much as I should.

Taipei airport, much busier this time. More Asian Mosey, more coffee, good times.

Taipei to Los Angeles

This leg is a mere eleven hours, a full three shorter than the San Francisco to Taipei leg on the way out. Nice. I’m pleased to see I’m seated on the aisle next to a bathroom. Shitty. Literally. Eleven hours next to a flying porta-potty. Awesome. At least there are two small Chinese women next to me, so I can avoid the Ass Overload Experience, endemic to many US flights.

Lift off, and I break out the toys.

After about hour four of the flight, coffee and tea do their thing. There is a steady stream of people heading to the bathroom. The door is opening about every ninety seconds. The smell is nauseating.

Just as I think this is bad enough, we hit a couple small air pockets. The tiny mid twenties woman next to me calmly fishes in the seat-back pocket in front of her. Delicately lifts and opens an air sickness bag and starts throwing up.

This is so bad I think I’m on Punk’d.

Every minor shimmy or shift of the airframe starts this woman throwing up.

Add this to the unending blast of air toilet smell every ninety seconds and I’d pay in a heartbeat to eat Gorgonzola cheese in the sewer of French meat packing plant during summer.

To be fair, my next seat neighbor only went through five air sickness bags during the rest of our flight, though she did use a them multiple times each.

Again, I have to avoid sprinting down the jetway in LAX.

Wow, the crap airport that is LAX never looked or smelled so good. …and they have Starbucks….yes!

LAX to Denver goes without incident and after clearing customs I see one of the best things ever.

Sherrie is waiting for me with three month old Logan smiling like a mini-madman. Great finish.

Oh, and my luggage showed up.

Postscript, Opal’s Failure

I get on the scales when I’m back home, and somehow despite Opal’s best efforts, I’ve lost 1.5 lbs. I have no idea how that happened.