My flight from Incheon Korea lasted over 13 hours. Our landing at JFK was delayed by an hour. The airport was only operating one runaway. Snow plows were still working to unbury the other runways after a 19″ snowstorm. During the final approach I stared out the window at the ground. Most of the major streets were open for traffic, although not many cars or trucks were visible. Thursday was an obvious snow-day.
The second of the winter.
The Korean Air 777 landed on runway # 1 at 11:20am. The plane taxied slowly to the arrival gate, the stopped short of its goal for two hours. Thick ice covered the tarmac. The passengers sat patiently for the next 2 hours, except for one smoker who tried to sneak a cigarette in the toilet. The alarm rang and the stewardesses busted the 50 year-old smoker in the act. He returned to his seat exhaling the last puff. Few people on the plane were old enough to remember ‘smoking areas’ in the back of aircraft. This world has nothing to do with the 20th Century.
Finally we were towed to the arrival gate, Everyone was happy to exit the plane after 15 hours, except for the smoker, who was met by the police. They cuffed him in the jetway. A fine of $2000 awaited him in TSA court.
My bag was one of the first onto the carousel. I exited from customs without any questions from the inspectors. My bag was clean. Only a blood test could reveal my crime and even the Patriot Act didn’t give the government that right of invasion. I exited from the terminal and headed for the Skytrain.
It wasn’t running to Howard Beach. Most of the people on the platform were freaking out as only an American can freak out when they aren’t getting their way. It was 1:30pm. I’d get to Fort Greene before sunset.
Cool calm collected, until my pocket was filled by my cell phone’s vibration. Richie Boy was calling from 47th Street. He was packing jewelry for a show in Miami.Against my better judgment I answered the phone. Richie Boy needed my help.
“Are you whacked out?” He had once flown to meet me in Bali. The semi-global flight had knocked the stuffing out of his Raggedy Ann Doll. Richie Boy understood jetlag.
“Not bad, I’m heading your way, but the situation at the airport is chaos.” I walked out of Terminal 1 and caught a city bus for Brooklyn. I had been on the ground over 4 hours and hadn’t traveled more than 2 miles. New York was not prepared for this much snow. The A train took one hour from Howard Beach to West 4th Street. I arrived at work late. Richie Boy was happy with the extra help. His father stiffed me for the 2 hours of work.
I arrived on 47th street at 5pm. Richie Boy was happy to see me. I was his right-hand man, although he paid me like I had no hands at all. Short commishes and no raise in salary for two years. He liked to joke, “Your bonus is that you keep your job.”
I didn’t think the joke was funny, but Manny and Richie Boy let me come and go as I please and not many employers would put up with that behavior. I worked for an hour and a half, knowing Manny would stiff me for the time. Like most men in old age they become either fascists or communists. Manny was a commie in every aspect except worker’s rights, so I left the exchange as soon as we were packed for the show.
The F train to Brooklyn took 30 minutes. A transfer train to Lafayette Street cost another 5 minutes. The walk to South Oxford lasted less than two minutes. I entered the houses and dropped my bag on the floor. My landlord and his wife were tasting wine for his 50th birthday party this coming Friday. I cracked open a bottle of Thai whiskey. His wife drank with me. AP was dedicated to wine. That decision made him feel free and later that night we broke into his wine stash. The crime must fit the punishment. I was guilty of many things. Innocent of a few.
Welcome back to America.
No longer then the Home of the Brave.
Only the Land of the Ice and Snow.
Some called it home.