Greetings from Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province and, most importantly, home to an Irish bar called Shamrock. D.C.-based photographer extraordinaire Tony Quinn, who will arrive Tuesday, is very happy about this prospect. (McGoff is too.)
To review the last 30 hours or so......
*Pre-dawn hours Friday at LAX.....It's after Labor Day, so no lines, no screaming kids, no grumbling parents, just business folk. The kind United Airlines desk agent finds me in the system, but alas, the computer spits out only one boarding pass: L.A. to San Francisco. As far as I know, the Women's World Cup will not be played in the Bay Area, and since I have slightly under 8 million miles on my itinerary, this is a problem. Puzzled, she pounds away at the keyboard. We're making progress...slowly.
*No business class (grrrr), but an aisle seat in the center section with no one sitting next to me. Nice. My new friend Jon, a Fulbright scholar a few seats down, does his best to make sure I do not mangle Mandarin upon arrival. Movies (no thanks) are Spiderman 3, Fracture (Anthony Hopkins was in that?), Surf's Up (my son is almost 11, which no longer requires me to endure animated films) and Fantastic 4 (Alba!). I try to sleep, but the big video screen is just two rows ahead of me -- it's sort of like having a neon sign as your nightlight.
*Our flying route is not straight across the Pacific, as you might think from staring at a flat map. In fact, we fly north and along the Alaskan coastline, cross the Bering Sea and the international dateline, pass the Gulf of Shelekhova (didn't she win the U.S. Open?) and the Sea of Okhotsk, dip below Siberia and skirt the Korean peninsula (Shout out to my ace Kim Jong Il).
*I pass time reading the novel Water for Elephants and giving my IPod a workout. Just a sample:
Jayhawks: Save It for a Rainy Day
Barenaked Ladies: If I Had a Million Dollars
Neil Young: From Hank to Hendrix
Grateful Dead: Box of Rain
Miles Davis: Kinda Blue
Tom Petty: Mary Jane's Last Dance
U2: Sunday Bloody Sunday (live, 1983)
Los Lobos: I Got Loaded
Amos Lee: Keep It Loose
John Hiatt: Cry Love
Van Halen: Little Guitars
Peter Tosh: (You Gotta Walk) Don't Look Back
John Coltrane: My Favorite Things
Steve Earle: Somewhere Out There
R.E.M.: South Central Rain
*We arrive in Beijing five minutes early, which on a 12-hour route, shaves 0.0069 percent off the flight. Some classic English signs in the terminal:
Kiss N Bake (cafe)
Flavor Tang (restaurant)
Information for Flight Irregularity (delay board)
Steep Slope! (ramp)
And this photo caption in an Air China magazine about hiking in Canada:
"These are the views that jerk the rugs of the ho-hum usual, that will put everything else in perspective."
Connecting domestically is rough. My flight has been delayed indefinitely. I get on a later flight. My row mate is from Beijing and speaks good English; he says he's been to Indianapolis. Go figure.
Thanks for indulging me. Back tomorrow with actual USA women's soccer stuff.
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