Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday, May 18 - leaving Shanghai

I haven’t been able to timely post on this blog since arriving in Japan because of the lack of internet service/availability. Hopefully I can post some interesting details when I get back to the good old US of A.

About Japan - what an interesting country and I found Tokyo to be breath-talking. I wish our tour had more time there but I understand why not because it is so hideously expensive there.

I found Kyoto to be excellent too.

I am writing this on Sunday afternoon in Shanghai. I am not certain it will post because the Chinese government has just started an internet monitoring program in anticipation of the of the Olympics. Once you got online it takes forever for every website to load.

These are emails I sent to family --
Thursday - tomorrow it is on to China


An awesome day in Kyoto today and in the morning we leave Japan to begin our adventure in China.

Once again, I hope this goes through OK.

In a few words - Japan is interesting beyond description and the people are terrific.

Hopefully I can give more details when we get to our hotel in Shanghai. I have been doing OK in keeping my log.

Billi Pod
Friday night - in Shanghai

Hi everyone:

I am in the lobby of the Sofitel Hotel in the middle of Shanghai and it is 10:15pm, They have just installed wifi service, but in the lobby only.

Today was a very long day with a long bus ride to the airport in Osaka and then the flight to Shanghai. The flight went OK and we actually had a pretty decent meal.

Had no problems with getting luggage, clearing passport control and customs. Our main tour director, Mark, was with us and we were met by our Shanghai guide, David.

The airport is a long way out of the city and it took 90 minutes to get to our hotel. The weather is awesome.

After a brief rest we headed out to a museum for a couple of hours and then had dinner at a Thai Restaurant.

When we got back to the hotel around 7:30 we split and I went walking in the area of the hotel, which is on one of the busiest streets in the city. It was awesome.

Tomorrow we have a 7:00am wakeup call and depart at 9:00 for a full day of sightseeing, ending with an acrobatic show in the evening.

How about letting me know if this goes through OK and is in English.

Billi Pod

Sunday - Leaving Shanghai

Hi everyone:

{is this comes through twice - sorry - this internet service sucks}

It is 12:10pm on Sunday and I am sitting in the lobby of the Sofitel in Shanghai. We have checked out and now have some extra free time because we don't leave for the airport until 3:45. I am not certain what our flight departure time is or the length of the flight. For whatever reason our Tour Director, Mark (who is doing an excellent job) hasn't shared that information with us.

As I wrote the other day, the internet service in the lobby of the hotel is quirky and once we get online, sites takes forever to load. Someone said that the government has ordered local hotels to monitor websites, but I don't know if that is true.

Shanghai is H U G E!!! I have tried not to compare Tokyo to Shanghai or the Chinese to the Japanese, at least not until the whole tour is over. The traffic here is chaotic and is beyond comprehension. The crowds are the same. I have taken a lots of picture, especially of the new buildings and the skyline. With all of the internet problems I will not try to send them until later.

As I said, the skyline is awesome with lots of tall new buildings.

On Saturday we spent the entire day on and off the tour bus going to various landmark locations. We also spent some time at a Kindergarten (ages 3-7) and were allowed to go inside the instruction areas to take pictures and then on to a silk production shop - both very interesting.

We had lunch in a Mongolian restaurant. I know but just like last night's Thai place, the tour selected the restaurant. I had pork, chicken, lamb and ?.

Most of the afternoon was spent at a mega-crowded rock garden.

For the evening we had a wonderful show by a world acclaimed acrobatic team, whose name escapes me at the moment.

We were back at the hotel around 9:30. I got some diet coke and a ? sandwich and after eating it spent the next several hours just wandering through the massive Saturday night crowds.

Bottom line on Shanghai - very impressive and it has been an enlightening experience.

Now, I am through sitting here and will stow the computer case and head out to do something.


Billi Pod 

So there it is - hopefully to be posted.

Billi Pod

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Saturday - I am in Tokyo

Well, I made it to Tokyo and so did all of my stuff.

It has been a long long long day/night. All of the following times are based on my body clock, starting in San Francisco on Friday morning.

My wake-up call this morning in San Franciso was for 7:00am. I had breakfast at the hotel and then took the shuttle to the airport, getting there around 9:00am even though my flight didn't leave until 1:20pm. I ultimately was able to get an exit row seat. I met several couples who are in our group and that helped to pass the time at the airport.

We loaded on time and pushed back from the gate on time at 1:20pm but weren't airborne until 1:40pm. The flight was about 75% full. The flight attendants couldn't have been nicer and we actually had two decent meals.

I spent the time alternating between doing crossword puzzles, playing solitaire on the iBook, and watching a movie - Bucket List with Jack Nicholson. I couldn't sleep even though I tried. It was a long and draining flight. I made sure that I got up every hour and walked up and down the aisle.

We touched down at 11:55pm, or 3:55pm local time. It was a 10 hour and 15 minute flight. It was raining when we landed.

By 1:00am I had picked up the duffle (thank you Higher Power) and cleared passport control and customs. Our Globus tour guide met us at the arrival area. We had about an hour wait in the arrival area as members of the tour group arrived on different flights.

The airport is huge and I mean HUGE.

At 2:00am we were on our bus headed into Tokyo and we got to the hotel, The Tokyo Hilton, at 3:15am. It was still lightly raining. I was in my room at 3:30am.

As I write this now it is 9:25pm local time (5:25am my body clock) and I am drinking a Coke Zero and eating a slice of carrot cake.

Our wake up call in the morning is for 6:15am. We have a group meeting at 8:00 and then a full day of sightseeing, ending with a welcome dinner at a trendy restaurant across the street from the hotel.

Oh, Tokyo is really awesome looking at night.

Man, I am tired but also very happy to finally be in the Orient,


Billi Pod

Friday, May 9, 2008

Thursday - Day One

Well, the adventure is underway. I am writing this in my suite at the Best Western Grosvenor Hotel in San Francisco. It is 1:45am per my body clock but 10:45pm local time. All has gone well so far.

I finished everything up at the apartment at 11:11am Thursday morning (and yes, there is that number again), doubled checked everything in the duffle and computer case and then went downstairs to meet the car service at 1:00pm and the car was waiting for me.

The trip to JFK went well and I was at the Delta terminal at 1:35. I usually use curbside checkin and I did so this time even though Delta has started charging $3 for the “privilege” of using that service. Had a very interesting chat with two of the Sky Caps and they said their earnings have plummeted and if people do use the service they usually don’t tip. Well, I tipped. Way to go Delta, just another example of screwing over the little guy. Anyway ...

When I got to the gate I was able to get an exit row aisle seat and that made me very happy. I had about a 2 hour wait but it went by pretty fast. I did buy a rather nasty looking sandwich to eat during the flight.

We boarded on time. The plane was about 75% capacity. When we pulled back from the gate we got into a long line of other planes waiting to take off. We finally were airborne at 5:30, 35 minutes after leaving the gate.

The flight itself went very well. I spent most of the time either working a crossword puzzle or playing solitaire on my iBook. I ate 1/2 of the nasty sandwich. We made up time and actually landed at SFO 5 minutes ahead of schedule - it was 11:30 EST or 8:30 PST.

Had a bit of a scare with my duffle. I kept waiting and waiting at the baggage claim area and no duffle ... the crowd got thinner and thinner and I began to have thoughts that The Norris Travel Curse had struck yet again. But, thank you Higher Power, the duffle did finally arrive, with the last load of baggage. Whew!!!

Still breathing sighs of relief I went outside the terminal to the Hotel Shuttle Area. It was cold and windy and, of course, my jacket was in the bottom of the duffle. No matter. I gritted my teeth and soon the shuttle arrived.

My two-room suite is excellent

My flight tomorrow departs at 1:20pm and I will be at the airport in plenty of time since the hotel is only about 5 minutes away from the International Terminal.

So, that is about it.

Billi Pod

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Wednesday - Departure Day Minus One

The countdown to my Japan/China Adventure is almost over and I have spent most of the past two days finishing up my To-Do list, which includes getting the apartment ready for family visitors week after next.

I really thought through what I was going to pack in the duffle bag, keeping in mind what assholes the airlines have become in their desire to squeeze the last dollar out of already stressed travelers. Unless I have forgotten something important I think I will be about 10 pounds under the 50 lb. limit. I will also carry on some stuff in a suit bag. I don’t like to carry on but I have to consider the possibility of the duffle ending up in Amsterdam when I deplane in San Francisco. Yes, the Norris Travel Curse is still active.

I did resist packing everything black (shirts, pants, shoes etc.) because I didn’t want my tour-mates to believe that I had only one set of clothes, which I wore every day for 3 weeks, so I included a couple of red shirts and a pair of blue jeans. Normally I wouldn’t care what other people might “think” but since we are going to be together for 3 weeks, sometimes in very close quarters, I decided that discretion was the better part of valor. Or, maybe I just wimped out. Whatever.

I will do my best to make timely postings, depending, of course, on internet access.

Now, other things --

I want to congratulate my soulmate, Rosemary Barkett, for successfully completing her Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage in Northern Spain, in 18 days. That is 18 days of hiking. Rosemary, I am soooooooo proud of you for accomplishing this once-in-a-lifetime experience. You did it girl! AWESOME!!!

On the entertainment scene - saw Forgetting Sarah Marshall Monday night and enjoyed it very much. If you like the Superbad/Knocked Up brand of humor, this is the movie for you.

On Monday I also had a nice lunch with student/intern/bartender Scott Reed. We ate at a neighborhood Mexican restaurant called Blockheads. It was damaged in the crane collapse and has just reopened.

As I anticipated, the critics absolutely ravaged Glory Days with some of the nastiest, meanest comments about everything concerning the show that I have seen in a long time.

And, the Yankees lost the first 2 games of the 3 game series against Cleveland. I hope they will have turned things around when I get back.

Gosh, I hope that about this time in 24 hours I will in the final approach to the San Francisco Airport.

Billi Pod

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sunday in the Big Apple

It is shortly after noon as I write this and I have nothing scheduled for today entertainment-wise. I have spent the morning working on things on my Japan/China To-Do list and this afternoon I will begin the process of getting the apartment ready for my departure on Thursday, a much bigger deal than usual because I will have family using the apartment while I am away.

On May 16th my niece Donna Jadamec of Denver, CO, her husband Joe, and their young daughter Josie, will arrive in The Big Apple and land in my apartment. They will be in town for the wedding of one of Joe’s siblings and will leave on the 19th. They already know that the apartment is an alcove studio and a bachelor pad but I still have lots of things and stuff to do to get it ready for them. And, truth-be-told, cleaning and household chores ain’t one of my strong suits and that is why I have allowed myself plenty of time before my Thursday departure for my own travel adventure.

Speaking of Japan/China - about a month ago I bought two rather expensive travel books by Lonely Planet, one for Japan and the other for China and I quickly became overwhelmed. Why? Well, the Japan book is 868 pages and the China book is 1028 pages and that is more information than I could ever absorb. Also, they are heavy and bulky and I might not be able to take them with me because I am very very concerned about the weight limits imposed by both the airlines and the tour group.

Just looking at them now sends the alarm off in my head and the voices begin, like: “what are you going to eat in Japan because you hate sushi? ... how can you get around alone if you don’t understand the language, written or spoken? ... what the fuck is yuan? ... did you know that bottled water in Japan costs 120 yen but only 2 Y in China? ... why doesn’t Hong Kong use the same currency as the rest of China? ... how many people will be on the tour with me? ... why the fuck am I doing this? ... etc. etc. etc. whatever and so on ...”

Ah, the sun is out and now I know what I will do this afternoon - watch the Yankee/Seattle game at 1:00 and then go see a movie, either 21 or Forgetting Sarah Marshall, or Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. Cleaning and chores in the evening. Yeah.

On Saturday evening I saw a new musical called Cry-Baby which just opened to very mixed reviews. It is based on the 1990 John Waters movie and is set in Baltimore (think Hairspray) in 1954. The central conflict is between two teenage groups, the straight-arrow Squares and the greasy, lawbreaking Drapes. My seat was in the mezzanine of the cavernous Marquis Theater and the mezzanine was only 1/4 full on a Saturday night - not good at all.

I can certainly understand the mixed reviews but some of the songs were really funny, like the opening number: “The Anti-Polio Picnic,” and later on in the show “Girl, Can I Kiss You, With Tongue?” What saved the show for me was the outstanding choreography and the young energetic ensemble. I don’t think the show will last very long.

Happy Birthday to Grandson Topher Falletta of Gainesville, FL - today is number 26.

It is hard to believe that this blog is now almost a month old and this will be my 31st post. Rock on Billi Pod!!!

Billi Pod

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Friday - Back From Freezing Yankee Stadium

Well, against my better judgment I went out to Yankee Stadium for the Yankees vs. Seattle game, the first game of a 3 game series, and it was freezing with a strong steady wind blowing directly in from center field. The radio announcer (I always listen to the broadcast during the game) said it was the coldest and nastiest weather of the season and I concur. I was dressed warmly and this time I remembered to bring my gloves, but, it was still very unpleasant. In fact, I left at the end of the 7th inning - enough was enough.

The good side - the Yankees won 5-1 behind another outstanding outing by Ching-Mien Wang with 3 scoreless innings from the bullpen. Wang’s record is a league leading 6-0. Thus far the Yankees are 3-1 in games I have seen. My next game won’t be until the June 3rd game against Toronto.

On Thursday I had a terrific lunch with Steve Gardner and it was great to get back in touch with him and to be brought up-to-date about him, professionally and family-wise. I look forward to spending more time with Steve when I get back from my Japan/China trip.

My entertainment event for Thursday night was another Broadway show in previews, a rock musical called Glory Days. The story line is that 4 high school buddies reunite a year after graduation. They meet on the bleachers of their high school football field and compare notes on how they have each changed and how they will deal with these changes. The four young guys were excellent and I liked the show a lot but I have a gut-feeling that it will have a difficult time finding an audience. I hope I am wrong.

All of the day on Friday was spent doing things and stuff in preparation for the Japan/China adventure including getting some foreign currency: China - yuan; Japan - yen. I feel pretty good about where I am in the process. The countdown has definitely begun.

Saturday I have another Broadway musical, Cry-Baby, a recently opened adaptation of the 1990 John Waters movie. Reviews have been mixed, so we will see ... At this point Sunday is open.

Speaking of Sunday - my youngest grandson, Christopher Falletta (whom I have renamed Topher), of Gainesville, will celebrate his 26th birthday on Sunday - congrats Topher.


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Billi Pod’s Activities for April

April was a rather strange month for me activity-wise because in checking my daily log (log, not diary, real guys don’t keep diaries) I find that I actually stayed in the apartment 7 nights without attending some sort of entertainment event during the day or evening. Hum ... 2 nights were because I didn’t feel well (sniffles, cough, slight fever) and the majority of the rest was because the baseball season has now started and I wanted to get back into my Yankee baseball rhythm, so ... this is what Billi Pod did during the month of April --

During the month I attended: 3 Broadway shows (Boeing, Boeing; Thurgood; and, A Catered Affair); 10 Off-Broadway shows; 3 comedy shows (Seth Rudentsky, Jon Stewart et. al; and, The Kids in the Hall); 5 classical music concerts; and, 3 Yankee baseball games.

I celebrated my 74th birthday on April 23rd (barf and double barf); was taken to a birthday luncheon on Staten Island by Scott Reed and Ben Sears; with my dear friend and fraternity brother Stumpy Harris of Orlando I saw the Florida Gators play in the semifinals of the NIT; acted as a tour guide for my granddaughter Gina Falletta and her friend Kelly Smith; and, on April 6 finally joined the blog generation with Billi Pod Blogs. I actually posted 28 times during the month.

So, in review, maybe it wasn’t a bad month after all. What do you think?

I didn’t go out to Yankee stadium last night for the second game against Detroit - I just didn’t feel like it. Actually, not a bad thing because once again the Yankees sucked. Even worse news - Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez and Phil Hughes are all on the Disabled List. Not good. I know it is early in the season but I just don’t see any fire in the team and they appear to me to be lethargic and lackadaisical, almost as if they were sending a message to Ownership that Joe Torre should never have been let-go, fired, whatever. Maybe that is overly dramatic but it is how I honestly feel at this point.

I am not in a panic mode, YET, but something is definitely wrong with this team.

Oh, I did a lot of routine stuff in my preparation process for the Japan/China trip. I think my main concern now is over what to pack, especially since the tour group is limited to one checked bag weighing not more than 50 pounds, thanks to the airlines.

Billi Pod