punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Live from Jacksonville... it's Saturday Night

Actually, it's Sunday night, but it might as well be any night of the week. I was up late Friday until 2am on Saturday morning preparing the house for Rogue and a long stay away. I had to "de-punk-ify" my backpack for airport security, although I left the pair of dragon wings pinned to the back. I got all my stuff put together, and then as usual, at the last moment, things went wrong.

Thisby, my brain-damaged insane Siamese rescue cat, has taken to rolling around in the cat box. I don't know why. But now she rolls in it like a Chinchilla rolls in dust. So I really had to clean up after her, and then she got tangled in the lace curtains, and then it was 2am.

I woke up on time, and Rogue drove me to Dulles. I had gotten there two hours before my flight, as I was told, and I was there so early (8am) that there was no line. Just one semi-friendly guy at the Airtran ticket counter. Then I had to get into the security line, which, although it was only 8am, was already snaking and doubled back across half the airport. As I wondered just how bad it was during, say, peak hours, I was treated to the fact the line moved fairly quickly, and it took only 20 minutes to get to the security stations.

Where I was flagged for "extra treatment."

Like right away. I hadn't even gone through the metal detector. The girl who grabbed my passport and boarding pass took one look at it, and flagged down another guy. I had to go through another gate, then forced to stand on a rubber mat, and be wanded like I had never been wanded before. I had already taken off my shoes (steel toe), but they made me untuck my shirt and expose my belly. In front of everyone. On top of this, while being wanded, another guy interrogated me with a machine-gun fire of odd questions about my past. I wasn't the only one singled out. On another rubber mat, they were yelling at this Chinese guy, who looked frightened out of his wits, and it was very obvious he didn't speak English so well. But what happened to him, I don't know, because I got yelled at for looking at him. "We're talking to you, he is not your business!" Finally, they gave me pack my passport and tickets, and told me to wait. Then like a second later, they told me I could go, and no one spoke to me again. As I left, they started with another girl, who didn't look older than 16. Looking at my watch, the whole thing took less than 3 minutes, but it felt much longer.

Dulles Airport is a main terminal where all the security/ticketing is done, and then you go on these busses and get driven to one of 3-4 concourses where the actual planes are. My gate was in Concourse B, and at 8:45, it was practically empty. The soundtrack of a terrifying movie played, which I thought was pretty strange, but it turned out to be a "Samuel Adams Bar and Grill," where an employee was playing some movie on the bar TV set. He was engrossed in some steamy love scene that, judging by the music, was a dangerous thing for these two scantily clad pair to be doing. I wondered if he knew how loudly the music echoed through the empty concourse, and gave the whole place this eerie, Hollywood creepy effect. But soon, at almost 9 o'clock on the dot, the concourse flooded with people, and the sound was muted.

The flight left on time, and was totally uneventful, except for the lucky fact that no one sat next to me, so I could stretch out a little. In fact, Airtran service seemed pretty good for "no frills." Everything is pretty clean and everyone was pretty friendly. I had a transfer in Atlanta, where the airport there ... was less than Airtran. Right off the flight, an Airtran person was shouting out what gates we had to transfer to because all the TV terminals were out. The airport terminal I was in had balding carpeting, and cheap drywalls covering closed shops. In fact, only about half the shop spaces were occupied, and those that were open were staffed with some of the biggest slackers, rudely sassing customers. I got a meal from Wendy's, and it was lukewarm. I got coffee and a cookie from some Starbuck-wanna-be coffee shop called "Seattle's Best," which... Jesus, I *know* Seattle can do better than that! The cookie was stale, and the Mocha Latte was absolutely vile, I think because the whipped cream was bad; the aftertaste was that of coffee and curdled milk. After I ate there, the coffee I did drink (I tossed it out after half the cup) sat in my stomach like a lead balloon the rest of the day. Bleah. The short flight from Atlanta to Jacksonville was also pretty uneventful, on time, and even though I did have to sit next to someone, she was a skinny beanpole of a woman, and so my broad shoulders didn't bug her. Airtran also didn't lose my luggage, although it took them about half an hour to start delivering the luggage after we landed.

I have to pause here, because although Jacksonville is the Cleveland of Florida, Christine said is was more like the armpit of Florida, and I still think it's the ass-end of Florida, their airport is really, really nice. It's clean, with white, glass, and chrome triangles everywhere, it has an indoor mall with lots of plants, and casino carpeting is a nice touch when you have tired feet. I think, based on the multiple signs, that it's a popular destination for those who flew in to take a cruise. There's even a "cruise waiting area" in the airport. But the airport is really the only nice thing I can say about Jacksonville.

This place is a low-income cesspool of broken dreams. I mean, I have never seen so many depressed people in one place. There are scores of rundown buildings, project housing, busted roads, abandoned storefronts, pawn shops, liquor stores, bars on windows, and even though we drove around quite a while, we still haven't found a "nice part of town" here without leaving Jacksonville proper. Jacksonville is not a destination; it's a place where one ends up. And thus, so has Fran.

Fran is at Shands Hospital here in Jacksonville. Not all the staff is terrible, just most of them. From the moment Debbie and Christine got here, they have had to bully, badger, and harass an apathetic and ever-changing staff just so Fran can get the basics; food, bathroom, and medical attention. I mean, it's truly the squeaky wheel that gets the grease here. When they arrived, Fran was near death. We were told he had 48 hours to live last Monday. Now he's been upgraded to stable, although, with a failing liver, he's not got long. Most of the time I have been here, the family has been talking about what to do with his final days. Fran was unconscious earlier this week, but today he was able to sit up and eat, and he had his wits about him most of the time. Tomorrow determines what we do next. We have a talk with his doctor, and based on what the short-term prognosis is, we'll know how long we have with Fran, and if he requires out-of-hospital care (which, last Monday, we were told, "He's not leaving the hospital... he's dying here").

So, as you can see, this has been really complicated. And there's TONS to other stuff I am not as liberty to say publicly, even if I could understand it all. Old family wounds, surprise guests, and revelations of "Ohhh... that explains why she hates him, and what happened when whosits did that thing to you-know who, and..." ... just really complicated stuff. Some of it dating back to the 1970s.

The hard facts are that we can't stay here to see what happens to Fran. We have a plan to get him a place to live back up north if and when he gets out of the hospital to live the rest of his short life. Sister Cheryl says she's praying for a miracle, and honestly, for a kind of kooky cultish Christian in-law, I kind of like her, even if she does act like a Mennonite half the time (she's not, but she's REALLY "traditional" about the role of women in a marriage).

We took Cheryl to see the ocean today while Fran slept. It was only a 30 minute drive to Neptune Beach, which while more crowded than Hatteras, it wasn't too bad. I mean, nothing like Ocean City, and this was pretty good considering Daytona and Fort Lauderdale has been taken over by Spring Break madness (in March? Isn't that early?). Cheryl is 45, and I wonder, how could she never have seen a beach or an ocean? She was taken away, I mean, it was like watching a child. She waded into the water with Debbie, totally entranced by the whole thing. I don't know how old I was when I saw my first ocean, but I was born on Cyprus, a Mediterranean island, so the ancient sea's salty air filled my lungs since birth. I probably saw my first ocean, the Pacific, before I was 2. My ancestors were Vikings. So I guess it's just inconceivable to me that someone could go their whole life in a modern industrialized country without ever seeing an ocean. My time to learn, too, I guess.

We're probably leaving Tuesday, which means I should be back by Wednesday night, if not earlier. Christine and I miss CR, the doggies, the cats, the house... to sleep back in our own b... oh, yeah. We'll have to buy a new bed when we get back. Still, I am sleeping on an air mattress while here, and it's not bad. Areobeds are pretty comfy. It's also a practice for Gencon later this year. And Maybe Otakon if I can afford to go this year. Also, when I got here, my clothes were too heavy. I don't know why the simple concept of "Florida = hot" never entered my head. Did I bring shorts? No... So I had to go to Wal-Mart and get new shorts, some new shoes (I love my Docs, but... ah... kind of heavy and dark for beach weather), and some new underwear (don't ask).

Well, I have to upload this before everyone goes to bed. I probably won't post again until I get home.

This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000438.html
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