9:39pm pst, -1 hour and 42 minutes until takeoff (-01:42): San Francisco to Singapore. First time to Asia. And I've got an outside shot at an upgrade. What's the big deal? I fly all the time. I must be swimming in miles and making it rain Dom in first class every time I hit the skies, right? Not exactly. The comedy company I do shows for (to pay for the travel blog lifestyle) doesn't really have a go to airline (thankfully they have a strong NO SPIRIT AIRLINES policy) so the miles I've accrued over the years are a bit scattershot. The last time I flew first class was about three years ago and I stuffed the free water bottles from the lounge into my back pack like a Dickensian ragamuffin (Editor's note: Act like you've been there before man!). Flying first class from San Francisco to Tucson would be exciting for me so the fact that I might fly up front from San Francisco to Singapore is mind blowing. And I'm 4th on the upgrade list.
So how does a frequent flier miles pauper end up fourth on the list for an international upgrade? An early Christmas gift from my dad who's flown 3 million miles plus over the years. He's basically George Clooney from "Up in the Air" but instead of firing people he's an ass kicking photojournalist. Rather than getting me socks this year, he and my intrepid stepmom Rebecca got me a chance at first. Now I just need four people to either not show up, decide to go to Singapore tomorrow, or have a secret admirer burst into the airport before they check in to profess their previously unbeknownst love and run off together. IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK??
(-01:37): I never thought refreshing my phone to check an upgrade list would give me such a rush but I'm riding the dragon hard (Editors Note: Facepalm)! Let's take a moment to revel in the fact that the last names of numbers one and two on the list have been abbreviated to Tuk. I'm behind a Tuk Tuk and I haven't even gotten to Southeast Asia yet. Irony is alive and well. While we're here, I'm getting a real "Shining" vibe from numbers seven and eight on the list.
(-01:17): A quick break from the upgrade refreshing because Patrick (my comedy show partner and all around great guy who’s intense but game for any adventure) and I realize we don’t have any cash on us and want to dodge the fees once we’re in Asia. We’ve heard whispers of a Chase ATM in this terminal (I found a picture of one next to a Starbucks in a Yelp review from three plus years ago from a user named Paul C). Seems like a long shot, but Patrick sets off in search of the elusive ATM.
(-01:09): No movement on upgrades.
(-01:01): Still fourth.
(-00:59): Disaster strikes. The Chase ATM next to the Starbucks is no longer there. Patrick is forced to use a Bank of America ATM, charged a $3 fee, which we split. What else is Paul C on Yelp lying about? Can I even trust his five star rave review of Paciugo Gelato in Hermosa Beach, CA? This is the definitive low point of our trip thus far.
(-00:44): OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT. The top four people on the upgrade list just cleared all at once and now it’s checked in full. I WAS FOURTH. IT’S HAPPENING!!!!! Patrick and I share some awkward white guy high fives and I skip up to the ticket counter to claim my golden ticket. And it’s a window seat! Anything is Possible!!!!
(-00:39): They announce we’re boarding. That was quick. I’m still in shock that the travel gods have smiled upon me. I feel kind of bad that Patrick has to slum it in coach while I’m up front, not paying for movies and episodes of "The Big Bang Theory". I think he’s begrudgingly happy for me like Ben Affleck at the end of Good Will Hunting. I promise to smuggle him booze.
(-00:32): This Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a big beautiful beast. The Business/First area of the cabin is broken into a couple of different sections and, in my euphoric daze, I accidentally sit in 5L instead of 8L. A couple rolls up to 5L and points out my blunder. I gather my stuff and sheepishly begin to vacate.
(-00:31): Check that. HIS seat. She is sitting in coach and is just there to say goodbye to the hubby. She's lingering, as if waiting for a last minute change of heart in which he decides to sit in the back. He's not budging. To be fair, I don't have all the information. Maybe she got to sit in first nineteen out of the last twenty flights they were on. Maybe he has a medical condition requiring every seat he plops down in to have a footrest. Maybe he has a deep-seated fear of paying for booze. But, if it were me, there is NO FUCKING WAY I would every sit in first while my lady was in coach. I just can't fathom it. I mean what the hell!? Anyway, just wanted to let you know that chivalry is dead on this flight.
(-00:29): I work my way back to 8L and it's even better that 5L!!!!! JkJk, it's exactly the same. This is where I'll spend the next 17 hours, luckily it's about the size of my bedroom back home but with much better internet (looking at you Charter Spectrum...). There to greet me? A leather(ish) amenity kit! Dope! There is no situation in which free amenities are unwelcome. Shall we definitively rank the top three items in the amenity kit? We shall!
3. A pen. Reusable and can be used to write on the cover of the amenity kit which turns into a post card (#6 on the amenities rankings).
2. Toothbrush/toothpaste. I don't care what the haters say, they count as one item (common joint usage). It's a well known pain in the ass to grab your suitcase from the overhead, scrounge through it like a raccoon until you find your dopp kit, then remove your toothbrush and toothpaste from said dopp kit. ALSO, your toothbrush is wet after you use it so it's just sitting in your bag dripping the rest of the flight. It's isn't the sexiest pick at number two but the toothbrush/toothpaste is number one in WARA (wins above replacement amenity).
1. You know what is sexy though.........SOOOOOOOOOOOOOCKS!!!!!!!! Hell yeah socks! Comfortable, stylish and disposable after your feet have sullied them for 17 hours.
(-00:27): The flight attendant introduces himself and asks if I need anything. Unprompted, he mentions that he is no mere flight attendant but my purser. Well aren't I just Archduke Dandy Foppington!?
(-00:25): My seat mate arrives. His name is Kenneth. Oh boy, he works in banking or something, he could be quite a snoozer...
(-00:05): Kenneth is the third most interesting man I've ever met. For those of you who are new (that should be everyone, this is only my second post), the only two guys I've met more interesting than him are; One, my dad, David Kennerly. Now before you cry nepotism, take a gander at this picture of a young David, also on an airplane...) and Two, Scott Parazynski. He is so interesting that Astronaut is listed SECOND on his business card. Each one of these gents will deservedly get their own post but for now, back to Kenneth.
Kenneth is from New Zealand and does work in banking, but it's central banking. What's the difference? Central banks handle state currency, interest rates and a plethora of other monetary related issues governments have to deal with. In the U.S. our central bank is the Federal Reserve. For fifteen years Kenneth was crushing it over at the IMF (International Monetary Fund) but recently decided to start his own consulting firm on central bank issues. And by start his own firm, I mean he IS the firm. It's just him, flying around the world to different countries that could use some sage advice about how to run their central banks. Kenneth LIVES in the air. Here's a breakdown of his week SO FAR.
Sunday: Flew from Auckland to Suriname (northern part of South America)
Monday: Flew from Suriname to London
Wednesday: Flew from London to Washington D.C.
Today (Thursday): Flew from Washington D.C. to San Fransisco to connect with this flight to Singapore. He will spend less than twenty four hours in Singapore before flying back to Auckland. Dude.
I haven't even mentioned the coolest part about him. Before central banking, Kenneth ran a four man team of scientists that were dropped by the U.S. Navy on remote glaciers in Antarctica for four to six months at a time. The three other guys would do cold ass experiments and Kenneth's job was to keep everybody alive until their ride showed up. So yeah, third most interesting man I've ever met.
Unfortunately, I didn't take a picture with Kenneth but his elbow makes an appearance in a pic of me posing with the amenity kit. You can tell he works with money because of his weird colored financial newspaper!
(00:00): Wheels up SFO!
(+00:05): It just dawned on me that due to the international dateline and magic or whatever, I will never experience Friday this week. We took off at 11:21pm Pacific Standard Time Thursday and will be landing in Singapore at 6:28am (Singapore time zone) Saturday. Too bad, I planned on solving the cold fusion theory and making energy free for the world on Friday. Now I’m over it. This flight timing has also rendered my window seat basically useless. We’re aggressively flying away from the sun so we’ll be in darkness for the duration. It’s a special kind of torture to fly over the entire Pacific Ocean, the Philippines, the oft-claimed Spratly Islands and Borneo, while not being able to see any of it.
But wait. Why is the picture at the top of this article taken during the day? And why is it of Honolulu? And why is the plane flying due west? What kind of chicanery are you trying to pull? Excellent questions eagle eyed readers, and I have answers! But we’ll need to briefly travel BACK IN TIME. So, umm, don't shoot me.
BACK IN TIME, 11:43am pst (-12:10): Wheels up Honolulu! Part of the touring improvisor gig is being flexible, on and off stage. We get last minute shows all the time and this trip was no different. Hawaii was added after we booked San Fransisco-Singapore and changing was cost and schedule prohibitive. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to fly from Hawaii to Guam, Guam to Manilla, spend the night in Manilla, then fly to Singapore the next day. But also, I really wouldn’t? So instead, we are flying five hours EAST from Hawaii to fly seventeen hours WEST to Singapore. So because I’m spending twenty two hours on a plane today, I’m using the cool picture. Hey, while we’re in the past, tell Future Byron to warn Future Patrick not to search for that Chase ATM in the San Fransisco airport, screw the space time continuum!!
(+00:24): This flight is getting NUTS. No really, the purser just brought warm nuts and informed us dinner service has begun (Editor’s Note: Double Facepalm). Unlike normal, where I eat the easiest thing possible as quickly as possible, this meal will be served in courses. This flight is turning me into quite the fair lady. I order the Amazon Cod and a glass of red wine. I can tell the purser is judging me for ordering a red with fish. Kenneth seems cool with my selection. I also order a glass of wine to smuggle to Patrick. The purser warns me to keep in on the DL. For my own safety.
(+00:26): As I breach the curtain to the main cabin cradling a glass of wine, several eyes dart to me. They haven't had drink service back here yet so some free booze is more valuable than gold in these parts. I work my way back to Patrick who has an aisle seat and is in good spirits, even more so now with the wine. He says the seat is a bit uncomfortable, but he just started watching The Sopranos and, as luck would have it, the entire first season is on demand on this flight. The plan is to have a couple drinks, eat something and watch an episode or two before getting as much sleep as possible. Solid plan, he's got this handled. I'm getting out of here before I get Louis the Sixteenthed.
(+00:30): Back in my seat and scrolling through the 283(!) movies on my personal inflight entertainment system. And the screen is huge (ya know, for an airplane)! And my appetizer just arrived! And it came with little baby salt & pepper shakers! Everything is awesome!! I have a long list of movies that I haven't seen on my phone and I love knocking them off when I’m flying. What film pairs nicely with garlic bread, lox, and a glass of vino? UNFORGIVEN!!! Let’s do this.
(+00:40): The lox are better than expected. In the movie, old west prostitutes are being roughed up.
(+00:56): The main course, Amazon cod, arrives as Clint Eastwood leaves his kids alone on a ranch to go kill people for money. Dad of the year!
(+01:10): The cod was the best thing I’ve ever eaten at 30,000 feet. Gene Hackman is not showing great leadership as the Sheriff of Big Whisky.
(+01:25): The classic post entree, pre dessert snack of cheese, crackers and grapes has arrived. Does this course even have name? Entressert? Desentree? Probably desentree. That’s probably what they called it in Big Whisky.
(+01:37): HARD TURBULENCE! A hearty jolt almost jumped my wine glass right off my tray table. Things are also a pretty turbulent for Morgan Freeman in the film right now as well.
(+01:53): The plane steadied out but Clint Eastwood certainly has not.
(+01:58): I can’t eat the ice cream sunday dessert because lactose and I had a falling out a while back, so I’m eating vicariously though Kenneth. I’ve also been reminded that the walk between the outhouse and the house is always the most dangerous.
(+02:41): Meal service complete and movie finished. Conclusions: The Amazon cod was the best part and a lot of filthy old west people are dead.
(+02:42): Wow, we’re 2,500 words in and we have fifteen hours until I land. Let’s punch the engines a bit.
(+04:40): I went double feature and watched Insomnia. This broke my “never watch a movie I've already seen on an airplane” rule but this one made my list because the last time I saw it was in theaters and it’s a Christopher Nolan movie made before he became CHRISTOPHER NOLAN. It’s good not great, I think it takes an L because of the script.
(+05:04): I’m full, I’m buzzed, and I’m ready for bed. Kenneth is already passed out, dude is a long haul master. I slap on the eye covers (#4 on the amenity rankings, insert the ear plugs (#5 on the amenity rankings), stare at the seat controls for a minute until I realize there is a straight to sleep mode button, and dip down to horizontal. I’ve flown so much that I’ve trained my body to easily sleep on planes, but that’s usually sitting up so I wonder if I can adjust to being fully horizobcbbxbdbmdn
Looking at the seat controls like...
(+14:04): Damn, still sleeping.
(+14:22): Awake. In the weirdest way possible (well, maybe not the WEIRDEST way). Kenneth may be able to get Azerbaijan's monetary reserve requirement ratio up to .5%, but he wasn’t able to find his seat controls. But he found mine. It’s a strange sensation to wake up slowly rising with the gentle whir of the seat motor in your semiconscious brain. I guess there are worse ways to wake up. Kenneth profusely apologizes in his Kiwi accent. Aww, Kenneth, I can't stay mad at you!
(+14:33): Brushing one’s teeth in an airplane bathroom is never a good experience.
(+15:01): Gonna venture to coach and check on Patrick, hopefully he’s sleeping.
(+15:03): Patrick is not only awake, he hasn’t slept. He’s watched fifteen episodes of The Sopranos in a row. His posture is bent and crooked (Patricks’s posture is always immaculate). He looks up from the screen at me with wide, hungry eyes like I’ve interrupted a hyena feasting on a carcass. I ask if he’s good. “Yeah yeah yeah”, he replies. Am I detecting a slight Jersey accent? I’m getting out of here before I get Big Pussied.
(+15:45): Even though it's dark, I get caught up listening to music and looking out the window. Somewhere around the Philippines, a group of individual lights grab my attention. I can’t tell if we’re over land or water, or any other context to figure out what these things are. I tried taking pictures but it was so dark they came out laughably bad. Fishing villages, perhaps? I’ll never know. (An Alien wipes the sweat off their brow and turns to his buddy, “Close call Zarg!”)
(+16:01): The map splits into two planes creating a Sliding Doors situation. I wonder what awaits Byron 2 as he flies south. I just hope he’s happy in his dimension.
God Speed Byron 2. Have fun in Jakarta.
(+16:10): We’re close. The purser is passing out fruit and orange juice. The cabin is starting to stir. The excitement in the air is palpable. Ok, I think I’m the only one in first class that’s excited.
(+16:25): Daylight strikes! Sunlight creeps across the horizon, illuminating some spectacular clouds. The plane dips over the harbor buzzing an eclectic mix of ships in the Singapore Strait. We’re over the water until the very last second and then…
(+16:29): Wheels Down Singapore!!!
(+16:40): Kenneth and I bid each other a heartfelt goodbye. See you on the beach in Zihuatanejo friend.
(+16:43): I step off the plane and take in a breath of fresh air for the first time in seventeen hours. Actually, Boeing spent a ton of money on two-stage filtration in the 787 Dreamliner, so technically the air on the plane was fresher than the air on the ground. I'm taking breaths of slightly less fresh air for the first time in seventeen hours.
(+16:46): I’m chilling by the gate, waiting for Patrick to crawl up the jetway. He emerges, spry as ever and ready to roll; had a two hour nap and is as good as new. Dude is a traveling machine.
(+16:49): Greeted in the men’s room by an an incredible sunrise. BEST AIRPORT BATHROOM EVER. Yikes, I’m getting batty. Time to wrap this thing up (Editor's note: Seconded.).
(+16:51): Hi Singapore. Let’s ride.