Thursday, November 30, 2006


Nope. Sorry, fresh out. Come back tomorrow.

Actually, a friend of mine threatened me with an "extraordinary rendition to get you out of that damn jungle." A correspondent who signed himself or herself "Gaucho Marx" said: "Haven't you figured out yet that we're all crazy? Don't you know crazy is contagious?"

So we'll give it a rest for today at least. And turn to various other travel topics:

--NOT IN THE POLONIUM SECTION, PLEASE! -- Showing that comedy is all about -- uh, what was that? oh yes: timing -- British Airways recently sent its Executive Club members an e-mail that used these always-alarming words: "We'll be making important changes." The changes? "We will no longer pre-assign seats for most customers at the time of booking." As of Dec. 5, only the following can choose their seats in advance: "families with young children, FIRST class travelers (the caps are BA's), Gold and Silver Executive Club members, and those travelers holding fully flexible
tickets" [read: those who paid the unrestricted, top-dollar published fare that virtually no one has paid in coach in 5 years].

Now, at least two British Air 767s are grounded and being scrubbed because killer Russian spies brought super-deadly Polonium 210 on board. Oops! More than 30,000 passengers are being notified they may have been seated near the Polonium section.

Quick! If you're a B.A. flier, hurry onto and get Viajero Joven to custom-book you a mileage run so you can hit Silver or Gold for next year! (Seriously, the guy is a certified genius. Last year, when I needed 22,000 miles to maintain Platinum on Continental for this year, he custom-booked me a 23,000 two-day, one-night trip that strangely included two connections in Guam -- for a total fare of $701. I bailed out at the last minute only under threat from my wife, but I'm planning on another go at it before the year ends,. because this year I'm even short for Gold.}

Anyway, remember last August when the cops in the U.K. went all wobbly over a grandly proclaimed but rather thin-in-the-detail terrorist plot to use liquids, gels and mince pies or whatever to do something really, really bad? At first, they said it was blow up 10 airliners over selected U.S. cities, but there turned out not to be any actual evidence of that beyond the whispered word of a batty informant who'd been on the payroll for two years and was looking to re-up.

Almost four months later, no real evidence of a serious in-the-works plot has actually emerged (shhhh, they're still investigating). But the U.S. Homeland Security Department started shrieking in tune with the Brits, and the result is my wife got busted at security over Thanksgiving for a container of yogurt.

Liquids, pastes and gels still remain banned except in three ounce containers obediently displayed in a one-quart-size zipper-lock plastic bag (a pint or a gallon will not do). And gel-bras of all sizes are still o.k., the falsies industry has been assured.

Anyway, you can't get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich onto a plane these days. (The peanut butter is o.k., someone I know was told at security, but the jelly half has to be tossed). But somehow, a scary gang of former USSR spies turned homicidal-maniac-gangsters-with-actual-KGB-experience managed to get Polonium 210, one of the most lethal substances on the planet, onto the planes.

Remember, Boris: No Marmite. And remember to book a seat away from the Polonium section.

--I WASN'T TOLD WE HAD TO DRESS! I felt somewhat sorry for Pope Benedict XVI the other day when he showed up in Turkey in his regular simple white uniform-of-the-day only to be met by a Turkish Muslim religious leader wearing a gold-embroidered waistcoat and a sailor hat that looked like it was 10 inches tall.

I mean, the Pope obviously knows how to dress simply for travel. In the picture, you could almost hear him thinking: "Hey, I got a 20-pound diamond-and-ruby studded gold crown and a crimson fur-lined cape back home. Nobody told me this was formal."

Today's paper offers some reassurance that the dress code has finally been agreed upon. Nice to see some agreement after, what? 1,000 years of trouble? Someone obviously was dispatched back to Rome for the formal duds because today the Pope is shown in a ermine-lined red cape and gold-embroidered stole meeting the Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, himself resplendent in his own embroidered cape and hat-that-resembles-a-mountain-camping-tent, not to mention a bejewled brooch the size of a manhole cover and, as an added touch, a long gold-filligreed pole that would be the envy of the gayest gondolier in Venice.

You and I think packing for a trip is a chore! Imagine these guys on the road.

--BUSH DOES VIETNAM! Finally, George Bush has gone to Vietnam, well over 35 years since a lot of the rest of us were dragged there while the President's daddy's pals snagged him a cushy gig defending the Domino Theory in Texas and, he insists, also in Alabama, honest. And Bush reported for duty both days in Vietnam! Goob job, soldier! Mission accomplished!

Can a trip to Vietnam by Dick Five-Deferral ("I had other priorities") Cheney be far behind? Can't you see the Vice President and his pals in camouflage kit and conical peasant hats, squatting in a rice paddy with shotguns, to bag a duck. "DUCK!" I mean the verb, not the noun!

--AND FINALLY, a movie review that doesn't pull punches. "An Ambitious and Deeply Stupid Movie," says the headline on today's Slate over a review of "The Fountain," which stars Brad Pitt as a time-traveler. "A really stupid movie," says the reviewer, Dana Stevens. So you can scratch that sucker off your Netflix "Saved" queue.

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