I’m just back from a conference in Rhode Island. You’re obviously not busy or you wouldn’t be messing around on the Internet, so here are rather too many disorganised observations….


Judging by the billboards on the way from the airport, everyone in Providence is involved in personal injury litigation all the time. I was surprised we didn’t crash on the way to the hotel. 

Cab rides would be a lot more fun if the drivers dressed, behaved and spoke like airline pilots. With that regal bearing, and those natty hats. And “Good evening gentleman, my name is Crazy Al and I’ll be your driver for this journey to about fifteen blocks away. We’ll be cruising at an altitude of zero feet, with an estimated journey time of rather longer than you expected because you’re clearly from out of town and so I’m going to take you some bizarre route. So now, sit back and relax as WHY DONTCHA LOOK WHERE THE FUCK YOU’RE GOING, ASSHOLE.”

I love airports. The sense of possibility, new places, far horizons. Even if I’m merely at the beginning of a long schlep back to the other coast that will leave me wan and dehydrated, they always stir my soul. 

Those perky bastards who sit in hotels having breakfast at 6:45. I can be up and dressed by then, but the prospect of a big plate of hot food… Oof. They always seem to be dressed in beige and pastels and look like they post on TripAdvisor about the cost of parking. And they always stare at me through the windows — as I lurch up and down outside the hotel mainlining caffeine and nicotine — as if I’m some low-level wild beast in a nature documentary. 

I cannot resist walking down alleyways. That sketchy-looking guy may be me, so don’t call the cops. But small change is always welcome. Or a Sierra Nevada. 

The concourse where your first flight lands will always have the best coffee and food. You will only discover this when you’ve dutifully trekked all the way to the one from which your connecting flight departs, which will resemble Stalin-era Siberia and sell nothing but sunglasses. 

Hoteliers… We don’t want a huge 1980s-style clock-radio on the night stand. I can’t work it. Especially when I’ve just come back from the bar. Instead, because amongst the non-Amish all such functions are now handled by an iPhone, we want somewhere to charge ours overnight — that doesn’t involve unplugging the bedside light from behind a surprisingly heavy piece of furniture. Also, make your coffee machines easier to understand when we’re drunk. And is this, actually, the right hotel?

And while I’m not on the subject, bear in mind that those with over-40s eyesight probably won’t take reading glasses into the shower, so how about making the labels on the toiletries large enough that we stand only a small chance of washing our hair in hand lotion? 

Also, what are those seventeen extra pillows on the bed for? WHAT ARE THEY FOR?

If someone comes up to you on the street and asks if you know Jesus, do not answer “Yes — personally.” They won’t get it and the resulting conversation will be tedious. 

I’d like to thank Starbucks for always being there for me. May you be in every airport, everywhere. BEFORE security. And after it. And during it. 

And to those who say “Starbucks isn’t coffee”… I’d like to reassure you that it is. Of course it’s not the best, and admittedly you need two or three or seven shots to even taste it, and naturally we all disapprove of multi-nationals for some reason we’d find hard to convincingly articulate, but it’s still coffee. Don’t get me wrong, I loves Peets and the more indie coffeehouses (and support them both intellectually and with regular cash) but just because my vast Americanolattechino hasn’t been under-roasted by some go-getting startup-owning Hipster and then had a mandala laboriously created in the foam by some slacker Hipster who thinks they’re an artist or activist or actor or some other annoying thing beginning with A, doesn’t meant it’s not coffee. And Starbucks has the massive advantage of being right here, while you, Zack’s Coffee Collective and Nonjudgemental Mime Space, are not. 

Dear Cab Driver, the Beastie Boys are a bit shouty for 6:30 am. 

There should be some sort of party when the number of iPhone cases for sale exceeds the number of human beings on the planet. It can’t be long now. 

Also, airplanes  of Earth, you do not “have wifi” if you’re charging $10 a second for it. You “sell wifi”. Bookstores don’t say they “have books”, do they. Safeway does not “have gherkins”. That guy standing on the corner in shadow does not “have drugs”. Well then. 

Anita Ward, if I decide that I wish to ring your bell, I shall go ahead and do so. Stop hassling me about it. 

People who say “I can’t eat airline food’”… What are you — seven years old? Yes there’s some ghastly stuff out there (like the stomach-flaying sausage roll Virgin Atlantic foists upon the unwary, which smells okay coming down the cabin but an hour later will make you feel like the devil is fisting your soul). But generally airplane food is edible. Not great, but we’re not expecting great — you’re on a fucking plane, where facilities are limited, and you’re neither Ferran Adria nor Jeffrey Steingarden — but probably on a par with whatever you’d microwave any given evening at home. Even if it’s not, then act like a grown-up and shovel it down and politely demand a lot more wine. Or buy an enormous pretzel in the airport and nibble that. 

All airports have a roof. Put a smoking area up there with a ten dollar cover charge, and use the money to buy militant non-smokers free vitamin pills and wheat grass shots. Or cake — which was what the very comfortably-built woman who glared at me for smoking in a designated area outside the terminal was stuffing in her face at 8:00am this morning, for crying out loud. I want to live in a world where we can all slowly kill ourselves without making moral judgments about each other’s choice of weapon. 

Last time I encountered a plane this small, I’d made it myself out of paper. I hope this one doesn’t also end up behind the bookcase. 

“The nearest exit may be behind you” could be seen as ominously metaphorical. 

“Can I start you off with some appetisers?”
No. Or maybe yes — but either way I’m on top of the decision. You don’t have to trigger a ‘What — there’s food you can have… before the food? Seriously???’ moment of revelation. 

My waitress on the last night was a mistress of the up-sell, taking me through the drinks list line by line before saying “I urge you to consider one of our cocktails.” I was tempted — almost no-one urges me to drink more heavily these days — but told her firmly that a local beer was what I wanted. Undeterred, she chirped “Wonderful!” and then tried to steer me toward the night’s entree special, hand-crafted from several endangered species and a snip at $741. It was a struggle not to seek out the cheapest thing on the menu or ask for an empty plate, just to mess with her head. Then she kept trying to bring me bread until I had to hide under the table. It was like there was a city-wide ordinance that Everyone Must Have Bread. In the end I told her that baked goods make me cry, and she backed off and went away to try and sell some other people a yacht. 

And, hotel restaurants — slow the fuck down when serving solo diners. We’re there because we’re too zonked on this occasion to wander out and find somewhere groovier and more authentic, and instead just want some downtime in a non-taxing environment. So don’t process us and plonk down the check in forty minutes flat — “I’ll take that whenever you’re ready, no rush” — because all we’ve got to do afterward is slink back to our room and sprawl on the bed burping and staring into space dolefully questioning our life choices and wondering if we shouldn’t be yoga instructors in Hawaii instead. 

Wolfgang Puck looks like he’s made of leather. I want a laptop case made of his face. 

That is all. 

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