Prague Diary: Getting There


Monday, September 14:

Since Mercury’s retrograde, I was determined to give myself enough time to get to the airport with obstacles. I ate a huge pasta lunch to fortify myself (because I am an army that moves on my stomach).

My mom drove me across the street to the train station with my luggage (since it’s uphill). I caught the 1:19 train, which was only three minutes late — a record for Metro North. No problem getting the seat in the front with the little indent for my suitcase, the backpack sitting on top of it. All good.

The train ride was exceptionally smooth. That should have been my first clue that something was going to go wrong down the line! The train even came in on an upper platform. I’m convinced that, whenever they see I have luggage, they radio ahead to say, “Make sure you put us as far away on the lower level as possible — she’s got baggage!” But we came in on an upper track.

The Samsonite bag rolls so smoothly that I kept looking back, thinking maybe the handle had come off in my hand and I didn’t have a suitcase with me.

Got across Grand Central, wandered across the street to the airport bus. Bought a round trip ticket. The bus came a few minutes later, I was loaded on, and off we went.

Costume Imp texted me that he was in the car on his way to the airport.

It wasn’t bad until we got onto Long Island. For some reason, there were cops EVERYWHERE and it was a parking lot. I wondered if there was some horrible accident, but we kept inching forward.

Costume Imp arrived at the airport and checked in. I was getting a bit tense.

In actuality, it didn’t take all that much longer than usual to get from the city to JFK — maybe an additional 15 minutes. But I had visions of not making the flight, in spite of leaving early.

I got there, Imp was waiting for me, and check-in was a breeze. I didn’t have to wait at all. Got the boarding pass, we went through security, and headed for our gate. We bought overpriced water and really bad coffee. I bought a couple of Godiva bars, in case British Air decided to act like a US carrier and not feed us.

We sat in our lounge. My iPod Touch wouldn’t connect to anything, which was frustrating, since I’d been promised everything would now work properly.

We also noticed that there were an awful lot of extra SWAT-types walking around, Feds, and various other guards. They walked through each lounge, making eye contact with every individual. In other words, they were looking for someone specific. But we didn’t know who or why. It was a little disconcerting. I was relieved that they were on top of it, but you could tell they were stressed.

We later learned that a terrorist plot aimed at New York had been thwarted, with several figures arrested, a key figure arrested in Denver, who was shipped back to New York for prosecution. Several raids had happened in Queens, which was why there were so many cops on every overpass, and traffic crawled. Again, disconcerting, but glad that they were on top of it and tragedy was averted.

And, when we got on the plane, there were extra police checking out each individual as they entered the ramp and then again, at the bottom of the ramp, just before we entered the plane.

We got settled in our seats. I had the aisle, Imp was in the middle, and there was a very nice young woman in the window seat, on her way to study for a semester in London. The seats on BA were much more comfortable than on United or American. They also gave us pillows and blankets, and little kits with headset, socks, eye mask, and toothbrush. I felt very pampered, after the US carriers who act like they’re doing you a favor by letting you on the plane in the first place. Imp still didn’t think they were as good as Virgin, but, never having flown Virgin, I couldn’t make the comparison.

We took off only a little late, settled into the air just fine. They served drinks — I had a rather mediocre red wine from California. Dinner was okay — some tortellini, with more mediocre wine and some of the worst coffee I’ve ever had in my life. We weren’t really in the mood to read, so we chatted.

Later, Imp tried to nap. I started Italo Calvino’s IF ON A WINTER’S NIGHT A TRAVELER, which is great, but I wasn’t in the mood to read. I wasn’t in the mood to watch a movie. I listened to some quiet music and tried to rest.

The descent into Heathrow was bad for my ears. Really painful, in spite of the precautions taken.

And then, we were regurgitated into the infamous Terminal 5, the new international terminal that’s supposedly so brilliant.

I loathed it.

I felt like a gerbil in a Habitrail.

We walked through glass-enclosed corridors up and down various levels (Habitrail), went through security and went through the terminal. We didn’t have a lot of time to make our connection. I wanted to get a British newspaper, but there was only one WH Smith close to where we disembarked, and nothing close to our next gate. I got progressively crankier as other people showed up in the lounge with newspapers! We did get some decent coffee, so I somewhat revived.

Our departure gate was A-10, which is another Habitrail maze they put you through before loading you on busses and driving you far out onto the tarmac before loading you onto the next plane.

I took the middle seat this time, giving Imp the aisle. These seats were larger and more comfortable than on the overseas leg. We got into the air reasonably on time. Unfortunately, the entire flight was just at the altitude that causes my ears the most pain, so the hour and change was agony. They fed us a fake English muffin (cold) with some sort of fake salmon spread on it and more bad coffee.

But we touched down in Prague on time. The first thing I saw made me froth at the mouth –all of the runways to the planes are plastered with Citibank logos. Now, we bailed them out with millions of dollars of TARP money so they could paint their logo over the Prague Airport? Needless to say, a letter to the TARP overseer is going out.

Security wasn’t a problem, and there we were. Mid-morning in Prague, up for nearly 24 hours.

I’d assumed we had vouchers to get to the hotel, but we didn’t; it wasn’t part of our package. I later found out hotels in Prague don’t do that. Taxis screw you and the airport shuttles aren’t much better. Fortunately, I had downloaded directions from the hotel’s website. We found an ATM for Imp to withdraw money (I had my first 4 days’ budget already in Czk).

We had to take a bus and then a metro. The ticket machines only had coins and we only had bills, so I left Imp outside with the luggage, smoking, and I went back in to get change. I found a transportation desk, and asked for the ticket that allows us to transfer. He shook his head and said we were going too far out to risk it — the ticket is only good for 75 minutes and one transfer. Praha 10 is far away, and we should purchase a day pass. I said I’d risk it. He also said we had to pay child’s fare for our suitcases. That’s not in any of the guidebooks, but since I know the fine is 900 czk if you don’t have the right tickets, I bought them. I later found out that it wasn’t a scam, that’s actually true.

I gave Imp his ticket and his suitcase’s ticket, and the 119 bus rolled up shortly thereafter. When you enter the bus or the tram or as you enter the metro station, you stamp your ticket. It gives the date and time. The inspectors can ask to see your tickets at any time and then fine you if you don’t have them or if they’re expired.

We got on the bus, punched our tickets, and got our first views of Prague. Out by the airport are still the beige concrete walls with barbed wire and then the block houses built under Communism. It reminded me a lot of East Germany in the 1970s and just after Reunification in the early 90s. Lots of busses, lots of streetcars, so public transport is the way to go.

It was about a 35 minute ride to Dejvickå, the first stop on the Metro line we needed, and the last stop for the 119 bus. We got off, rolled out suitcases into the station. Since it was the starting/ending stop of the line, we didn’t have to worry about direction. We knew our stop was 11 stops in, and the stop before it was a long stop starting with a “Z” — which we nicknamed “The Z stop” for the duration of our stay.

The metros are great. They run underground, are clean, fast, easy to navigate. One has to push the button to open the doors — they don’t open automatically. The metro was crowded, but a very nice woman sat opposite us. She reminded me of my mom’s best friend. She told us what phrase was used to mean the doors were closing (there’s no way I can spell it, so I won’t put it here). She loved Scotland, especially Glasgow, and was a big fan of Charles Rennie Macintosh. In fact, she was on her way to borrow a book about him from the library.

We got off at our stop (only 20 minutes from our starting point, well within our ticket time) and headed in the direction indicated by the hotel map. We saw “Billa”, the grocery store which was mentioned in hotel reviews, and headed in that direction. It was definitely a residential neighborhood, with blocks of flats on both sides of a wide boulevard. We headed towards a street called “Solidarity” — mostly because it was something we could pronounce. We saw a large building sticking up, and when we turned the corner, there was the Hotel Juno, which was to be our base for the coming week.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009
Waning Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Overcast and humid

I scheduled my Sole Struck Fashions post on the Fall Season to go up this morning, but, heaven forbid it actually posted. And I can’t post from this computer, because the text is on my other computer and I can’t use a flashdrive on this one.

I’m doing this from the computer on site, since they didn’t leave me the password for the wireless. I can’t transfer work from my computer to this one, but at least I can get online here, since I’m not dashing home to feed the cats this a.m.

And 1and1 has been down for a couple of days, so I haven’t been able to access my email. Some of it I managed to pull through a different server, but most of it came through as gibberish, so I can’t deal with it until I get home and can use my own computer on my own hookup.

Which may or may not be tomorrow, since tomorrow is the big switch from Verizon to Optimum and I bet you, dollars to doughnuts, that Verizon shuts me off at midnight and I won’t have internet until Optimum shows up between 11 and 2 to wire me up.

On top of that, the Macbook is running poorly. It hasn’t run properly since they put the new hard drive in. And I was REALLY screwed yesterday, when I went home and tried to print out the short story for the anthology that had to go out yesterday and put in the headers. Suddenly, it won’t put in headers –not in Word, not in Pages. I’ve been putting headers into documents since I got the damned computer. Only suddenly, it won’t do so.

I call Apple Care. And I get ATTITUDE. “I’m not trained in Word, you have to call Microsoft.” Yeah, the ones who don’t help and whose “help” function is useless. And, as far as Pages — “we don’t tell you how to do things. We’re here for TECHNICAL support.”

Hey, dumbass, when it’s functioned for four months and suddenly doesn’t, it’s a TECHNICAL issue!

The Spotlight function, which searches out documents so you don’t have to go file-by-file, also isn’t working properly now. It finds the major stashes like “hard drive”, “desktop” and “documents”, but doesn’t always find individual files, which it always did before.

Who knows what else I’ll find doesn’t work as I pull up different documents? This is NOT acceptable.

I called the head office in CA. I am NOT putting up with this shit. I spent enough money on this system for it to work for more than four months. I spoke to a very nice woman who understood my concerns and frustrations, and reassures me this is not the norm for an Apple computer. I told her I have yet another Genius Bar appointment on Saturday morning at 9 AM, I am NOT taking 10 hours and driving over 2 states, and I expect to walk out of there with a computer that runs PERFECTLY. She agrees. Great, she’s nice, but agreement is not a solution, and I want a SOLUTION.

I doubt it will happen, but I’ve detailed everything in a letter to Steve Jobs, and it’s going out via certified mail tomorrow. Either Apple stands by their product and they make it right, or I want my money refunded and I’ll try yet another manufacturer.

I am NOT going through the same crap I went through with Dell for years.

So, yesterday was not a particularly productive day, although I finally managed to get the story out, although the story’s title was in the header on the right, near the page number, not the left as instructed. If that’s enough for them to reject it, then so be it.

Can you tell I am NOT a happy camper? Really, I just want to curl up into a fetal position and sob.

I cleared away the area for the cable guy to work yesterday, dismantling an entire wire-framed bookcase and the wooden shelf unit in front of it that held office supplied. I kind of like the space, so I think I’ll just set the shelf unit back. I obviously didn’t need most of the books that were in the bookcase behind it, so I’ll pack them and take them to storage.

Came back and did my site work. Not very productive, but got it done. Had another work-related event in the evening, which was fine.

Abby, the retrograde for good bargain shopping on small items and non-electronic items is Mercury, which goes into Retrograde in early September. It’s about about mixed up communication, travel delays, electronic glitches, etc., so of course, it will be in Retrograde when Costume Imp and I go to Prague! We figure as long as the plane stays in the air, we’re good, and we’ll cope with everything else. Besides, we’ll have good shopping!

I have noticed good shopping lately on household goods, which could be the effect of the Jupiter Retrograde, when it’s time to get home and hearth in order.

I feel like I’m getting sick — sore throat and swollen glands. I do not need this right now — I’m sure it’s triggered by stress.


Just a lousy week, for the most part (although I love this particular site job and look forward to coming back in early October). I will be glad to see the end of it, and greet a new week. Let’s hope it’s better, especially electronically!

Perhaps MY Mercury never went direct last time around! 😉

Brandy, Chris, thanks so much for your comments. I appreciate them.


Published in: on August 13, 2009 at 8:12 am  Comments (3)  
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