Saturday, June 10, 2006

Terror at 30,000 Feet? Nah.

June 9+10, 2006:

Well, I've safely arrived to Newcastle, but the trip wasn't too glamorous. I had no delays or anything (thank goodness), but unfortunately, I was just a 220-pound man sitting in seats made for 10 year old children. Needless to say, these couple of days of flights really became quite uncomfortable.

It all started easily enough. Jen offered me a ride to the airport (thanks Jen), because Spike backed out (I know it was unavoidable. No hard feelings). I got there a bit early (nearly an hour and a half), but no worries. It gave me a chance to draw some of the folks around me.

First stop? Memphis, TN. Quick and painless. I actually sat with a pleasant young lady named Meredith on the way over. She's a college student who's somehow decided she wants to do an internship in Gaffney, SC at the Nestle plant. I was raised in Gaffney. It doesn't have too much to offer. Friday night at Wal-Mart is the main social event. I even confirmed that with Meredith. Sorry Meredith (but I did tell her to check out Greenville when you get back)

So, I arrived at the Memphis airport and discovered my flight had been overbooked (Snipes!). They were offering money and rooms and massages (kidding about that last one) for anyone willing to stay off the flight. Luckily, I was there early enough to guarantee myself a seat.

On this flight, I had the pleasure of sitting next to Mike. He's traveling from Chicago, but he's an England native. It allowed me the chance to be the bothersome planemate... or seat buddy... or whatever the hell you wanna call a guy you're stuck sitting next to for 9 hours. We did the usual courtesy conversation. What do you do? Where do you work? Can you please get your elbow out of my ribs? Mike also gave me all kinds of Newcastle trivia. I won't get into it here. It was pretty much a chance for me to adapt to the British accent for the next 9 hours.

Oh! One more thing.
I couldn't sleep. I tried, but I hurt too much. Plus there was this annoying church group just walking around, clapping, yelling, talking, etc... all through the night. It didn't help that they were all overweight, white Americans. I was embarrassed for my people. They were honestly acting as if they were on a thrill ride. Seriously. No exaggeration. Hands in the air... in unison... yelling "whhhhooooooaaaaaooohhh."

Next stop: Amsterdam. This was the big time! Huge international airport. Great shops, great people, not so great feeling (me). I was the walking dead. Everything's German (it seemed like the signage was) and extremely well designed. Even the urinals were cool (sorry, no photos. I didn't want to get punched). I sat around a bit just reading a new book I bought before the trip (Nick Hornby's "A Long Way Down.).

Almost in Newcastle. This flight was super-small and super-tight. This time, I had a window seat. As I approached my assigned seat, I noticed a frail old British lady. To my surprise, she was seated before the rest of us and was unable to get up. She actually asked me to climb over her. It was a bit touchy. The slightest misstep and I would've crushed her. She was so sweet (and frail). I'd hate for her to lose her life to a size 13 EEE Frankenstein foot. Luckily, I can be "delicate" when I need to be... or when old ladies need me to be... or something like that.

Aaaannnnnddd... I made it!! And, boy, was it refreshing to step off of that final plane. Bright and sunny skies with a cool, dry breeze on my face. I was thrilled. I, of course, still had to go through customs, luggage claim, etc. but in the end, Jim (from SUMO) greeted me with a warm Newcastle smile letting me know I have a friend to help me home.

We jumped on the metro and rode into the main area of the city. It was phenomenal. Classic architecture, end-on-end as far as I could see. Really cool place. Found my hotel, checked in, and decided to shower and nap (contrary to what everyone told me to do. I don't care. I needed it. Plus, i'm used to little sleep)

Jim and I met up later for dinner and drinks. He took me by a lot of the local spots for eating, drinking, drinking and drinking. It was a great time. Drinking while tired and jetlagged will definintely help me sleep through the night... right?

ZZZZZzzzzz.... nope I woke up close to 4am. Wide awake. So, i just read a bit more. I eventually forced myself to sleep. G'night.

I'll fill you all in on the rest of the weekend soon.
Hope this wasn't too detailed or boring or pointless.



Anonymous Mom said...

Glad you had a safe but uncomfortable trip. Can't wait to see your sketches and photos. I'm looking forward to checking out your daily updates about the City, SUMO, new co-workers and your experiences. Michael hasn't posted anything yet. Love to know what he thinks about the hot, humid South! Murray is adapting but I am sure will be ready to go home in 2 weeks.


1:49 PM  
Anonymous Spike said...

Sorry I backed out of the airport trip, brother. Glad you made it safely there. Your counterpart is very cool. Wanna frag?

1:52 PM  
Anonymous VeeDub said...

I bought that exact same Hornby book in the airport on my way home from Chicago on Saturday. Enjoy your stay and upload some pix soon.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Marion said...

13 EEE????? Good God Justin - you should have told me THAT a long time ago!

Glad you made it safe - screaming Christians 'n' all....they're lucky it wasn't me on that plane...

Enjoy every minute of it! xxoo,m

3:35 PM  
Blogger Bob Gammon said...

Glad your having a good time over there. Enjoyed your post. Sounds like Michael's also enjoying his visit so far. Looking forward to your next post.

7:26 AM  
Anonymous Jason said...

Glad you made it there in one piece. I'm excited to see what comes of this whole experience, via your sketchbook and what you do at SUMO. Good luck.

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Spike said...

The hospital!?!? Snipes!!

4:59 PM  
Blogger Bob Gammon said...

Sorry to hear about your eye problems. I hope everything else goes great for you. Murray is doing great and getting along with everyone.Enjoy your visit and I hope you make some lasting friendships over there.

5:46 AM  
Anonymous jason said...

sounds like your trip was interesting. Great looking pics so far. I'm excited to see what you'll be showing off on the blog and your sketchbook. keep posting sketches.

11:13 AM  
Blogger Justin Gammon said...

sketches aren't working out as much as i'd hope. Not enough time. I'm being forced to socialize... not standing still very often. ;)

6:19 PM  

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