LOCATION: somewhere west of Detroit
TIME: 2:15 p.m
STATUS: 30 hours to Seoul
In some fifteen years of travel only twice have I had to "talk my darts" onto a plane. On both occasions I was passing through Halifax, Nova Scotia. Each time I easily managed to convince security that I truly was not capable of causing harm to anybody, particularly if they had a triple twenty tattooed to their forehead. Still, as I steered my Jeep towards Philadelphia International Airport this post-September 11th morning, I couldn't help but harbor just a bit of concern that on this trip I may face some questions.
How right I was. After passing through the magnetometer, I was greeted by a large gentleman in a blue uniform with a gun and a third grade education who wanted to look through my bags. I think he was Snoop Dogg.
He confiscated a highly suspicious nail-clipper that I've carried for years and which, apparently, might have had a bomb hidden inside of it. He also found, but let me keep, some of the typing paper that I carry with me on trips, just in case I decide I want to write something or commander an aircraft. "Take me to Cuba, you bastard, or I'll give you a nasty paper cut. And then, damnit, I'll clip your toenails!"
But THEN he found my darts. "What am these?" he asked.
"Those are darts," I replied. "I'm a professional," I lied.
"Well, sir," the guard kindly explained (actually he kind of rapped - and I 'm only partly paraphrasing) "there aren't no way . I can let you brang . 'dangerous missiles' . onto no plane."
So, the short story is that I walked the five miles back to the ticket counter, waited in line all over again and checked the bag that held my darts. I then retraced my steps and missed my flight. Well, not really. I only almost missed my flight. But I wish I had.
In all these years of flying I have honestly tried my best not to let my darts, or my wife, get banished to the Bermuda Triangle-like cargo bin of an aircraft. I now have failed on both counts. If you've seen my wife please call me.
For some reason, the "fasten seatbelt" and "no smoking" lights are not working. I wonder if this means there is an electrical problem that could get worse? Lunch is on the way but I have already had peanuts. I counted them. There were 28. Even though the little lights don't actually say that you can't smoke, someone apparently just did. The stewardesses (who are mostly male, not that there's anything wrong with that) are scurrying around trying to find the villain. Lunch is on the way so I've got to sign-off for now. More later, if the ASSHOLE in the seat in front of me doesn't smash my laptop by pushing his "recline" button again.
Oh, one last note. If you are reading this, then I have made it to Seoul and figured out how to get my e-mail to transmit. This doesn't necessarily mean that I made it with my bags or my darts.
LOCATION: just east of Fairbanks, Alaska.
TIME: 6:45 p.m
STATUS: 8 hours to Japan.
Yo. I've been traveling for 17 hours, so far. Alaska's down there somewhere. Hi Jeff Olson!
I have made a disturbing discovery. In the row in front of me and three seats over to the left is a BABY! And, to compound the problem, one row in back of me and just one seat over is ANOTHER BABY! I feel like frickin' George Custer! Babies to the left of me. Babies to the right of me. I'm surrounded! Babies shouldn't be allowed on airplanes, poopin' and cryin' up the joint. It's patently unreasonable that my darts, and not these babies, should be travelin' in the damn cargo hold.
We have been served dinner. Baby poop. I am worried about my darts. I am hungry but I know I can find something tasty, with eyes and whiskers, in Japan. They've got the "fasten seat belt" and "no smoking" indicators fixed but now the movies won't play. Help me Lord.
LOCATION: I don't know.
TIME: my watch says 10:45 p.m. but it might be broken
STATUS: seven baby bottles of Dewars
I am SO tired. I am SO tired. I am SO tired. The rumor that travel to exotic locales is some sort of glorious thing is patently false. It's the exotic places that are glorious. The travel -- the getting there part -- flat out sucks the big Mullah Omar.
The stop in Osaka was brief. I couldn't afford a sandwich. I did part with $8 for a bottle of mineral water.
They got the movies working and I've watched three of 'em.
The first one was The Mummy Returns, about when the mummy, Imhotep, walks the earth again determined to fulfill his quest for immortality. BUT he has to fight another force: the Scorpion King. I won't spoil it for you by telling you how it ends. I fell asleep anyway after a few nips of scotch that my new stewardess friend, Gregory, sold me for a tidy sum (but for less than my bottle of Japanese water).
The second movie was called a Knight's Tale. It's about a poor young British lad who dreams of knighthood. One day he gets the chance and, though I am unclear why, he reinvents himself and becomes (you guessed it) Tommy Cox. No. No. Actually, he becomes a noble superstar, Ulrich von Lichenstein. This is truly a crappy movie. I hung in for most of it though, fortified by more deliveries from Gregory.
Finally, I watched the new Woody Allen flick, the Curse of the Jade Scorpion. Woody is C.W. Briggs, the top insurance investigator in New York. The dastardly Jade Scorpion puts a hypnotic spell on Woody and he becomes a jewel thief and falls in love with (you betcha) Tommy Cox. No. No. Woody's not completely nuts. He falls in love with Helen Hunt. But Helen thinks Woody is slime. Next the Jade Scorpion puts a spell on Helen and she also becomes a thief. Then she falls in love with Woody. Then the movie ends.
Gregory brought me a glass of lemonade and 28 more peanuts. Actually, there were 30 of them this time. This is nearly a ten percent increase over the earlier bag. So perhaps things are looking up. I hope my darts aren't with Dorothy and Toto.
LOCATION: Seoul, Korea
TIME: 3:00 a.m.
It's been 40 hours now since I rolled out of bed and began this journey. I' m at a hotel called the Hamilton in the Itaewon section of town. It's on the main drag just across the way from the Nashville Club, home to the heart of darts action in the city, and just down the road from Hooker Hill. John Lee grew up here.
My bags were nearly the last to come bumping along the conveyor belt, butthey arrived. And so did my darts! Needless to say, I was elated.
I did a celebratory jig right in the middle of the baggage claim area. And briefly, I recalled the recent words of the great Olly Croft, Chairman of the British Darts Organization, which seemed to offer perspective on the hours of needless concern I was caused by Snoop Dogg and tightened airport security: "Screw 'em! They ain't nutin' but a bunch of turds."
Okay, Olly didn't exactly say that -- at least not about airport security. In fact, he might not have said it at all. But he sure as 'ell's been thinkin' it -- about the Professional Darts Corporation, which is but months from putting him out of business. Good for them!
Anyway, I HAVE MY DARTS! I've stopped by the Nashville. And, I've hit the boards and beat up on a few of the bar girls at the Hollywood Club and the Ivory Club (both also on the main strip).
Now is bedtime. Tomorrow's a full day. Then I am off to Bangkok.
My darts are already safely en route to the hotel. By way of Federal Express.
From the Field,