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Lake Stevens, Man About Town

This Just In!

By Lake Stevens, Man About Town
August 25, 2004

An Adventure in Coach

Keanu Reeves The other day I was enjoying my usual 2 pm luncheon with Keanu and Minnie at Ivy when I was rudely interrupted by a most urgent call from the "wife." "She" informed me that we were scheduled on a last minute flight and I needed to get to LAX on the double. I couldn't possibly imagine what was so important as to make me hurry over my watercress salad and fois gras on toast.

"Darling, really now, this can wait until tomorrow. I've got a massage with Horst at five, followed by a fitting for the VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards at seven... What? We're going where?!?"

When I heard our destination, I nearly spit my San Pellegrino white wine spritzer all over Jose, our cute Latino waiter. I just get the giggles every time he refers to me as "Señor Lake." Who knew an illegal immigrant could be such a tease! I jerked myself out of this reverie to reflect upon what I'd just heard. The "wife" and I would not be arriving in the Hamptons or even at the Jersey shore. Our presence was desired in...Michigan.

Casserole My poor, sweet "wife" (bless "her" heart) didn't have the good fortune of being born into one of the more "American" states like Massachusetts, Rhode Island or even Los Angeles. "She" came from not only Michigan, but from Detroit. How gauche! It seems that "she" nearly forgot a family reunion. I know that it's tragic "her" Aunt Esther might not live to see another Yom Kippur, but is it really that important for me to be there? I decided to attend despite myself. It was an opportunity to see how the common folk live, what with their Tupperware and tuna-noodle casseroles. My "wife" also threatened to divorce me if I failed to come.

Normally this reunion business could have been neatly avoided by pinning the blame on Consuela the maid. Whenever faced with a distasteful proposal, we simply tell the host that The Help must have misplaced the invitation. Oh pity, at such late notice, we couldn't possibly secure a flight in time...so sorry we couldn't be there. Then we usually send them a little something from Fred Segal and they forget all about it.

This reunion was different. The placement of various relatives' wills was to be secured! I could see why the "wife" was so insistent; Aunt Esther was simply filthy with money. Time to dash!

Minnie Driver Wasting no time, I kissed Minnie on both cheeks and Keanu on the lips. I threw Jose a tip and a wink while yelling to the valet to bring my Miata around. In my rush, I nearly slid right past the door. My new calf-skin moccasins weren't providing adequate traction for a man on the run. I'll never understand what's wrong with those PETA vegetarian types. How can one even consider life without calfskin?

I arrived at LAX in record time and found the "wife" ensconced at a public bar drinking a martini. "She" looked shamefully away when I demanded to know why "she" wasn't in the First Class Admiral's Lounge. It was only then that "she" told me we were flying COACH. At first I failed to grasp the implications of this. I knew it only to be very bad. The next thing I knew, the "wife" was brusquely patting my face and shaking me by the shoulder. I must have fainted after learning that I'd have to mingle with the unwashed. My hand went to the tender spot on my forehead where I'd presumably hit the floor. This wasn't a dream, but a nightmare that had only just begun!

Johnny Depp To calm my frazzled nerves, I quickly ordered a double shot of bourbon from the closest airport tavern. Screaming children and dumbfounded tourists did nothing to help the throbbing that was steadily growing behind my eyes. A group of teenage girls started squealing when they mistakenly thought they spied Johnny Depp hurrying through the crowd. After downing my third drink, we crept along the noisy corridor to the America West gate. I stared blankly at my "wife." "She" hedged that America West is an airline just like Virgin or British Airways...except not as good.

When we located gate C-4, I promptly asked the agent to allow us to board. Settling in with a strong cocktail and the latest copy of Harper's Bazaar might make me (sort of) forget the day's prior trauma. The agent (her nametag read "Sheri") snapped that I had to wait for my row to be called. Stunned, I had no choice but to sit on one of the tacky vinyl chairs next to my "wife." I was careful not to touch anything. You can get herpes from anything these days.

Old Navy Finally "Sheri" announced that "all main cabin passengers may board." A stampede of sun-burned Midwesterners, encumbered with Old Navy and Ross shopping bags, clogged the entry. America West apparently finds it easiest to shove everyone onto the plane like so much cattle in a train car. I can't be sure, but I think I may have screamed aloud at this point.

We began our parade of shame to the coach cabin. As we passed through First Class, I looked longingly at the deep, cushiony leather seats and ample leg room. I made eye contact with one handsome gentleman who appeared to be alone. Before descending into the seventh ring of coach hell, I managed to lean over and whisper how much I loved his ascot and slipped him my cell number.

We found our seats near the back of the plane. The overhead bin was almost full. Did they really expect me to put my Hermés valise next to luggage that was obviously of the Sears persuasion? I couldn't bear to look as I gingerly slid my bag into the last spot. I quickly sat and clenched the armrests until my knuckles turned white. Tiny beads of sweat formed on my brow.

When my knees bashed against the seat in front of me for the fifth time, I decided then and there that I would become a crusader for the Little Guy. The Little Guy, who must slave to earn those few hundred dollars for the privilege of flying the friendly skies, only to be crammed aboard like a chicken in a crate. This was America after all - land of the proud, land of the free!

"Just because someone is poor does not mean they have to travel like they are in Guatemala!"

The "wife" hissed at me to shush or else "she'd" see to it that I wouldn't get anything from Aunt Esther's will. "She" was right -- some things are more important than others. The Little Guy would have to fight his own fight.

Louis Vitton Handbag I signaled the Flight Attendant to bring my complimentary drink. "Gary" looked annoyed at my request and lisped that "coach does not get beverage service until the plane has reached cruising altitude." I asked the woman across the aisle when this flight had become a time machine back to Nazi Germany. Her only response was to tighten her grip on her garish handbag. You're not fooling anyone, honey. I know a fake Louis Vitton when I see it.

Thankfully the "wife" had a Valium (or three) and I was somewhat pacified. I was actually starting to get comfortable when I felt someone sit down next to me. Without looking, I could already feel the cheap, flammable fabric rubbing on my silk blend travel suit. Irritated, I looked over. This time I sighed in relief. It was Margaret Cho. She wasn't so bad...maybe she could give me some material for my next column. I had to put it on hold for a week as I certainly wouldn't be seeing any stars in Michigan. There was always the outside chance that I might run into Kid Rock or Jack White, but I try to give press only to those celebrities who bathe on occasion.

Margaret Cho I looked closer at Ms. Cho and realized with horror that there appeared to be a penis lurking beneath all that cloth. My eyes bulged. I opened my mouth but, for once, nothing came out. Margaret Cho was a man! My "wife," who recognized the urgency of the situation, quickly popped another Valium into my gaping mouth.

"Shhh, honey. It's just a very, very ugly Asian man...he won't hurt you. We'll get through this. Now rest."

Midway into the flight I was roused by the Imposter Cho's overzealous use of an I-pod. The stringy warblings of Ashley Simpson pierced my skull. Only four more hours I told myself. If made it through the last Academy Awards, I could make it through this.

I was again awakened when I felt moisture collecting on my dry clean only Lauren suit. What was this? I looked at Imposter Cho. With every exhale, a bubble grew and culminated in a burst of spittle. It was pooling on my shoulder. I thought about poking him, but somehow waking the slumbering beast seemed worse than the mini-surf spraying from his lips. At least the beverage cart was finally approaching.

"Five dollars for a drink?!? Oh fine, give me a gin. Straight, no tonic."

The bit of gin warmed me and stirred a hunger that I didn't realize I'd had. My spirits rose slightly as I eagerly awaited the arrival of lunch. I dreamt of moist chicken breast accompanied by a crisp endive salad. "Gary's" recitation of the menu options again reminded me that I was among the savages. There was a choice of entree: the chef's salad, undoubtedly made with iceberg lettuce, or a chicken "wrap" that looked to have some kind of white sauce dripping from each end. Both were ten dollars. Ten dollars! How can the common American traveler afford a plane ticket and then be expected to part with ten more hard-earned dollars for a sub-par "salad?" I'd never been very political, but decided that it was time to write my congressman about this outrage. I politely refused the selections, both that may or may not have contained real chicken. I popped another Valium and slept.

After what seemed like a millennium, the plane finally landed. Imposter Cho smiled gummily at me while we waited for First Class to exit, for fat people to un-wedge themselves from seats and for old folks to retrieve their belongings. Careful, items may have shifted during the flight! At least my Hermés bag appeared unscathed. I saw one woman furtively stuffing one of the airline blankets into her knapsack. If you need an America West blanket that badly, honey, I think they'll let you have it.

Detroit Metro Airport My legs were wobbly after all that Valium and "wife" had to help me up the aisle. Maybe they'll recognize my condition and have a wheelchair waiting at the gate. Finally at long last, I breathed my first lungful of Detroit Metro air. After all that I'd gone through, I was never so glad to be on solid ground...even if it was in Michigan.

-Lake Stevens, Man About Town
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