May 06, 2010

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Let me take you away from politics for a bit, and bring you down here to Myrtle Beach, a down market Miami Beach but with much nicer and friendlier locals. There is even a Hemingway street—Papa came fishing around here—which would never happen in Miami. Only porn stars and drug dealers have streets named after them in that sweaty Sodom and Gomorrah, although the city did once allow Xaviera Hollander, author of The Happy Hooker, to ride on a float on the fourth of July. First things first, however.

I flew to Myrtle Beach with some other judokas for the U.S. national championships and although I ended up with a gold medal, I only fought palookas, as they used to say in the world of boxing. Old men no longer care to mix it, so I think I’ll throw in the towel next year.  What was far, far harder was the trip. At La Guardia Airport  Delta check-in I was informed that my name was not on the list of passengers. After I insisted I be shown the list—weigh-in was three hours away and I had to make that flight—the check-in genius gave in and showed me a few names starting with T. “See,” said the Delta idiot, “you’re not on it.” Just above “Thompson,” I saw the name “Theodoracopulos, Taki,” so I asked him to match that name with the one on the passport he was holding. “You’re not on the list,” insisted Sherlock. After a supervisor arrived and checked me in I asked him how Delta could have an illiterate behind the counter. He shook his head but said nothing. Racial quotas, I believe. 

After an uneventful flight where we got to meet some rude hatchet-faced stewardesses, came the weigh-in and some training and the inevitable sleepless night. I was with my coach Teimoc, who also won gold, my trainer Ali, an Uzbeki Olympian who eats very tough guys for breakfast, and my old buddy Jeff—stand up, stand up for Jesus—Jansz, a man with whom I used to spar with in karate  45 years ago. (He now works for the church, is as poor as a church mouse, and gives me non-stop warnings how I will end up in hell unless I stop doing what I do.) The night after the tournament I got very very drunk and arrived at the airport still under the influence. This is where my Odyssey began in earnest. 


“The lightning and the thunder soon had Teimoc praying to his Shinto ancestors, Ali to Allah, Jeff to Jesus, while a drunken me laughed uncontrollably and announced that we were going down.”

Instead of an illiterate, this time Delta had an imbecile running the show, an imbecile who insisted the flight back was on time—now get this—even after one hour had elapsed from the 5:40 scheduled departure. Fat Americans wearing baseball caps just kept staring at the giant TV on the wall or playing with those infernal tiny machines everyone plays with nowadays, and no one was complaining. Except poor little me. My judo friends, except for Jeff, had abandoned me for the bar, so I joined them and began the double vodkas on the rocks regime of the night before. Soon I was blotto. Apparently that’s when the imbecile announced that the flight was cancelled and asked the passengers to line up in order to be instructed where they would be billeted for the night.

There was only the imbecile, so after about another hour with only four or five passengers having been given their orders for the evening, I decided to take the bull by the proverbial you-know-what and demanded a private jet be put at my disposal. The imbecile claimed there was no such thing in South Carolina, so we went out on the street, took a taxi, and asked the driver for the closest airport nearby. Once there we were told that yes, a plane was available, but a pilot was not. After about an hour a tall, good-looking man in his thirties arrived, greeted us in a jolly southern manner, and made a flight plan for the Bagel. As I was drinking I hadn’t noticed anything, but Jeff thought that our pilot was high. “Good, that makes two of us,” I told the pest. Soon a co-pilot arrived and in no time we were air born. Approaching Noo Yawk we hit the biggest thunderstorm I’ve ever encountered in my rather long and happy life. The lightning and the thunder soon had Teimoc praying to his Shinto ancestors, Ali to Allah, Jeff to Jesus, while a drunken me laughed uncontrollably and announced that we were going down. Then suddenly we landed and the pilots cheered. We had finished two bottles of vodka during the flight. The pilots took off right away because they had to be in Miami four hours later, storm or no storm. Now that’s flying with the seat of your pants, as they used to say before computers took over. 

All this proves that no good deed goes unpunished. I tried to be humble and fly commercial with my judo buddies, but with airlines like Delta around, private jets are manna and more necessary than ever. Despite my gold medal, an illiterate and an imbecile managed to spoil my weekend. Next week I will tell you the secret of how you can all make money by betting with Fitzdares, Britain’s friendliest and most generous bookie. Just don’t fly Delta.       


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