Online & On the Air

If you're anywhere in the Santa Cruz area tonight at 7 p.m. (10 p.m. EST), tune into The Great Leap Forward on Santa Cruz Free Radio. I'll be talking about spirituality and punk.

Or if you're more in the mood to read, check out the following review on barnesandnoble.com. An interesting take on the Catholic contributions to punk -- and it name checks "Heebie-Jeebies".


A First Class Revolution

In the spirit of the season, I made for family and friends this past December, going as far as Minneapolis in the dead of winter. Of course, when my plane was set to take off, I was told that I would end up stuck in Chicago for 36 hours, waiting for a connector that had been grounded due to a blizzard. Faced with the choice of either hanging out in O'Hare Airport Christmas Eve or going back home to sip eggnog and re-spin my dredel, I went with the latter.

Imagine my surprise then the next day when I returned for my rescheduled flight only to find I'd been bumped to first class. I can only assume that the very kind woman who bumped me from my original flight took pity on me and decided I should be raised a few steps in the social hierarchy, because if you know anything about me, you know I'm not exactly the first class sort. Or at least not in the button-down, formal suit, checking my IPhone for business texts sense. I mean, sure I'm a first-rate boychick ready to run rampaging through the village green with a leather strap in my teeth and a song on my lips. Sure I'm right up there with the brightest of these dimming United States, all those best minds splattered like potato salad on the asylum walls, screaming "Kaddish" while Ray Charles shouts blind on the stereo. Sure I'm first in line when it comes to posing the unpleasant questions, like what's the meaning of life, why are there still those who are poor, and which way do I go to find the rest room kind sir? Sure sure, you know all of this about me, and if you don't know it, it's time you do. I'm first in all things first and foremost, at least so long as they concern the big C's of Culture, Conscience and Cross Buns Nicely Toasted.

But when it comes to first class in the airplane sense? Hell no! I'm ready for that revolution in aviation when the proletariat of the economy seats rises up to demand free drinks and salty snacks alike, no longer willing to pay through the nose for a vodka tonic and a bag of peanuts.

Till then, of course, I will make do as best I can. And in this case making do meant making myself sit up there with the other Aristocrats, and drinking the free drinks and accepting (quite graciously if I say so myself) all the salty snacks I could snatch. In fact, I so made do that by the time I landed I was feeling a bit smiley and charitable to my oppressors and self-conscious betters, bestowing on them the tonic smiles of someone as refreshed as if he'd had a Vodka Colonic.

But here's the thing. I mean, I hate to grouse seeing as I'm ready for the revolution and all, but considering this was supposedly first class, I have to say I was a bit disappointed. After all, way back in the '90s, I was also once bumped up to first class, this time on a Virgin Airlines flight to England in the cool early days when Richard Branson was still offering amenities like eight music channels, at least half of them as good as anything found on college radio (I remember discovering Elastica that night, for instance). But I'm getting away from the main point (music has a way of doing that to me), the main point being that during that eight-hour flight, I was treated to one of the finest first class experiences I have ever come across in my years of hoping and praying to be bumped up to first class. Because, you see, on Virgin that night they not only doted on me like the President on Airforce One, they did so in a cooing, soothing manner that was aided and abetted mightily by their wonderful accents -- and their even more wonderful snacks: Fiddle Faddle followed by Brie, and Brie followed by sliced apples and wine; then custard pie and Ben & Jerry's ice cream, a paracetamol for my tum tum when it all became too much. And all the while all the drinks I could imbibe. But wait, hold on, I haven't even gotten to the best part yet. Because best of all, by far and away, was what they did with my nuts. Yes, they warmed them up. A bowl of mixed nuts as toasty warm as ... well, toast would have been had the foodstuffs been switched. Hot nuts. And fazed cookies. And me grinning idiotically over my seventh Jim Beam, thinking myself pretty clever for having avoided making a stupid remark about them warming my nuts (clearly, having done so here proves that we don't always get better as we get older. Just cornier.)

Ok, that's a bit of a downer to end on. So instead, consider this. While my first class experience on United Airways this past XMass consisted merely of free drinks and a single "snack box" of crackers, cheese spread, cheap cookies and "gourmet" potato chips, it was repeated twice in the course of my trip. That's right, when I got on my connecting flight in Chicago, I was pleased as punch to find that I was back in first class again. In other words, even though the same situation was in place (a single snack box filled with items not all that snackable), I did at least get to fill up in the end, the two meager offerings together forming a single sufficient one. It kind of reminds me of the old joke about the two Jewish ladies in the Catskills complaining about the food. "It's so tasteless and dry," says one to the other. "Yes," answers the first. "And such small portions."