After a few days of late-Christmas at my mother's house in Virginia, I headed up to DC to meet my college friends Anne and Leah, as well as Vern from last week on the Aranui.
We had a grand time getting manicures and pedicures (well, not Vern—who met us later—but Anne and Leah's daughters went to the spa along with us), grabbing dinner, and then on Monday morning, I headed back north on one of the $25 DC-NYC buses.
I texted Michael Kraiger as the bus passed Snake Hill in Secaucus, and then again as soon as the bus pulled into Manhattan, out of the Lincoln Tunnel.
"Be there in three minutes." I watched the familiar-but-alien landmarks whiz by the window. And the crowds! So many people in Manhattan—they were all traveling at the end of the holiday.
I stumbled off the plane into Newark Airport, two-and-a-half movies and a few hours of sleep after Tokyo, a night and 11 hours on the plane after Auckland, which was five hours on a plane and one hotel night from Tahiti.
This is definitely a silly route to take home.
I felt vaguely triumphant as I stood dazed on Terminal C's moving sidewalks, locked inside the enclosed space on the wrong side of passport control, the evening's dramatic sky outside the glass showing off across the departure gates lobby.
I had only a few hours in Tokyo before it was time to head back to the airport.
"What should I do," I thought as I hurried to get my bag packed and down to Reception by the 10 a.m. cut-off.
Last time I did this, in 2003, I'd gone to a temple. Today I decided to go to a temple of a different type—I'd go to a place informally called Fabric Town or Fabric Street.
I knew I couldn't buy anything—I was on a fabric diet, having tons of it at home that I hadn't used yet in my bag-making hobby. Maybe because I'd been so busy making a wooden table and building a robot or baking pie. But that didn't stop me from wanting to look, to see what a fabric district in Tokyo might look like.
And here's how it looked...like a place I wanted to spend days exploring.
I'd booked my overnights in Auckland (both of them) and in Tokyo by strategically using points off my credit card and banking accounts, along with reviews on TripAdvisor.
Here in Japan, I'd nearly gone to a small Asakusa hotel that I'd been to twice before, once in the nineties and last in 2003. But then I found this one, Hotel Yanagibasi, which is right by the train and has free ethernet Internet, and was in the right points range.
My room is teensy here but it's all mine, and the bathroom is bigger than the dorm one on the Aranui (not saying much). I've got a fridge and a single-cup electric kettle, which means I had coffee in my room this morning without having to venture out in the cold.
But it's time now—to put on every long-sleeved item I have and my socks and Pumas (I threw away my worn-out sandals from Bangkok when I left the Auckland airport hotel)—and venture out into the morning chill.
I thought I'd have a hard time getting out of bed at 5:30 this morning in Auckland. I'd flown from Papeete and gotten in just before midnight.
A day later. Which is funny, because Christmas just vanished—POOF—destroyed by the International Date Line.
I wasn't doing anything anyway, since I had to sit on a plane half the day.
I had to be back at the Auckland airport by 7:15 a.m. this morning, so that an Air New Zealand check-in agent named Maria could berate me endlessly for 1) being in the wrong line, though I told her the agent had instructed me to go to this line and that the flight was oddly missing from the signs and 2) for not having a print-out of my itinerary for my onward legs. What, she can't just see it on her computer? It's all one ticket.
Air New Zealand is crap. Every time I've flown with them on this trip, I've had to waiting in a horrible line because apparently they can't work out web check-in, and twice now, someone behind the desk has spent a bit of time aggressive pointing out to me that *I* obviously was mistaken about something. And if I have to watch that Richard Simmons safety video one more time...okay, I'm ranting. Back to the topic at hand.
Which is the sun rising over the Jetpark Hotel in Auckland this morning.
Almost enough to make it worth the detour from Tahiti.