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Dean Haspiel

History

3rd January 2003

5:20pm: Le Petite Paris – Part One: Xmas Eve/Day 2002
Got to JFK Airport early to try and finagle an earlier flight. Ours was splitting at 11:15PM and SBX saw one going @9:30PM. That would give us a fighting chance to surprise SBX’s family in England during holiday dinner, rather than miss the feast altogether. No go. The unsympathetic bitch at British Airways gave us some lame excuse about SBX having ordered a “special meal” and not being able to transfer said meal to the earlier flight. Bullshit. Total. SBX would have happily forfeited her meal. Merry Xmas. Anyway, this is when I discovered that SBX had also signed me up for a special meal of the Asian Vegetarian variety [Asian in England is often Indian, ergo, curry, which I dig], but this threw me off, making me think that, even in holiday travel, SBX had to control what I ate. Mother dog. On top of that little surprise, my sinus cold was flipping me the bird, giving me a hearty heads up that it would be sticking around for the duration. Making sure I’d enjoy a nasal hassle for Europe. Charming.

*cough*

We couldn’t catch the earlier flight but the British Airways scrooge was kind enough to upgrade our seats to 9-inches of extra leg-room. Gee, thanks, British Airways. A gamble is a gamble and we got jacked. Nonetheless, we made it through a sturdy security check and SBX caught up on some Xmas cards and I read some Jack Kirby MIRACLE MAN. We snooped about the terminal and did some last minute Xmas shopping. A snack and a frequent flyer sign-up later, and we were on the airplane bound for Heathrow.

*cough*sneeze*

Seven hours of -- controlled atmosphere, cramped legs [even with the extra 9-inches!], sore necks, a 007: GOLDENEYE movie, a micro-waved Asian vegetarian meal [which wasn’t half bad], little to no sleep, lots of water for an itchy throat/chapped lips/and nose sniffles – later, and we were near England. It was officially Xmas. SBX woke up and gave me a Panasonic portable CD player, an ELVIS [#1 Hits] CD, and a TOP 10 travel book about Paris. Expecting this, I stashed a gift for her and gave SBX Adrian Tomine’s SLEEPWALK, an OPTIC NERVE collection of Raymond Carver/Daniel Clowes-esque inspired comix. It has some really great short stories in it, including the heartbreaking “Lunch Break.” A passenger named Joy recognized me from my pals Josh & Sari’s wedding and we made acquaintance. We landed safely in Heathrow and taxied for 45-minutes. I had to pee bad [all those fluids] and so did SBX. The stewardess would not let me use the bathroom and it royally pissed me off. Unfortunately, I took it out on SBX when she sided with the rules of conduct over my tender bladder. The video screen before me would not shut-off, so in my anger, I took BA’s complimentary socks and used them to block the screen. Later on, I would find out from SBX that she me watched in horror, thinking I was going to pee defiantly into the socks. We chuckled. A baggage claim and Avis rental car pick-up later, and we were on the road to Shrewsbury, a 3-hour drive to surprise SBX’s family.

*cough*sneeze*hack*

I was getting sicker by the hour as we drove the beautiful plains of England’ suburbs. Me made a few pit stops and was graced by the most magnificent rainbow that stretched for miles. I followed the colorful stripes and, as I turned my head in search of the golden treasure at the end of the rainbow, I came upon SBX’s beautiful eyes. We listened to Radio One’s pop tunes and flipped between Radio Two’s Top 10 Xmas countdown from the early 70s & 80s. The Queen came on and gave her 5-minute Xmas sermon. She only talked about herself, the deaths of her mother and sister, and the jubilee -- an incredibly narrow holiday speech. I wrapped Xmas gifts for SBX’s family [wrapped gifts are not allowed to board airplanes, a terrorist security measure], while playing Sulu to SBX’s Kirk. The mountains were sublime as the clouds billowed with the threat of rain.

The family members we were surprising were: Helen [SBX’s sister] and Peter [Helen’s husband] and Joseph [their son]. Colin [SBX’s father] and Mary [SBX’s mother]. I’ve met her parents a few times and Helen, I met eons ago when I was dating ‘Boo’ [SBX’s then best friend]. Scandal. Indeed. Whatever. True. We arrived at Helen’s house and no one was there. We snuck around the back and saw through the dining room window that, by the empty wine glasses and tables crumbs, Xmas dinner had been served and eaten, mocking our tardy surprise. SBX surmised that they must have gone for their Xmas afternoon walk [a UK tradition]. So, we went out front and walked down the road to the River Severn, playing sleuth and tracing steps. We walked passed cozy homes and curvy streets, into a park and over a bridge closer to the river. We stumbled upon an amazing weir and studied its beauty. We walked passed a fence keeping Shetland Ponies from escaping their field and giggled at how cute they were. We looked down the river trail with no family in sight.

We shuffled back to the house and there was no sign of life. We went behind the house to see if we could sneak in when we heard voices from the street. SBX and I came running out, surprising the family. They were in shock, never expecting to see their daughter/sibling standing in Shrewsbury on Xmas Day, so many miles from Brooklyn, NY. Their eyes lit up with so much happiness. The long trip was worth it just to see those looks on their faces. Hugs & kisses were traded and soon, we were inside eating holiday leftovers. I learned more about SBX’s family; Helen is a teacher for 16+ and teenagers who are “slow.” Peter works with virtual reality solutions and robots. He’s currently designing safety regulations for an Airbus that holds over 600 passengers! Colin worked for IBM for 25-years and left to start his own company, and Mary has always been a housewife, holding down the fort.

Sick, tired, and drowsy, I started to fade hard. I took a half-hour nap and dealt with jet lag while SBX caught up with her family and took in a few ZZZs herself. I was awoken to a hot cup of Lemsip, which tasted like a nasty; Tang flavored Hot Toddy sans whiskey. Supposedly, this concoction would help with my cold. We huddled around the living room table and played ARTICULATE, a British-centric, charades like, board game. I got partnered with Helen, because she was used to teaching retards how to speak, spell, and math. Hah. Not, funny. We played for a while and broke for cheese and wine. I took some silly pictures and we resumed the game, which Mary & Peter won! Tea and chocolates arrived, whetting the palette for family song. They sang classic Xmas carols to Helen’s guitar and “Silent Night” nearly ruined me. I kept quiet, observing their soul mollifying mirth. SBX called her daughters in Colorado, where they were skiing with their father, only to find out that they were suffering from altitude sickness. I called my mother and then my father to wish them happy holidays, and discovered that New York City had been hit with two-feet of snow, enjoying the magic of a white Xmas!

Soon, everyone retired and my head cold was hitting grand slams in my sinuses. Still, that couldn’t stop SBX and I from making muffled love.
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