New York Vacation

Part One: Overcoming a fear of flying

By Al Carlos Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: May 12, 2004

New York Vacation

I am no longer too macho to admit that for many years I have had a debilitating fear of flying. 9-11 didn?t help. The fear of fligh,t as I found out is irrational, considering that I can wheelie most motorcycles.

The real fear is confinement in small places, panic attack and a perceived lack of control. This malady is probably the result of a culturally learned macho mindset that perceives emotionality as weakness. This colonial thinking had kept my posterior out of the friendly skies for nearly a decade.

This month we celebrate our 20th anniversary and I promised my wife that we would do whatever she wanted, and she wanted to go to New York, so I said ?Go ahead and bring me back a hat.?

Candidly, I had always wanted to visit the Big Apple, but after our driving experience to Canada, the only way I?ll ever be in a car that long is if I get kidnapped. The bus was out of the question, if I could sit still that long would have gotten a law degree, and the bullet train is still on the drawing board. Flying was the only rational option, but rationality has never been my distraction of choice.

To make a long story shorter, and several pounds lighter, thanks to www.fearofflyinghelp.com, Dr. Adler, and the spiritual intervention of some good friends, I found myself on a 737 in row 16 next to the window adjacent to my wife who was searching my face for any signs of implosion or hysteria. I choose the window seat because if we were to crash I wanted to know where I might be planted.

Because of the flying course which was written by an airline pilot, I knew more about the physics of the aircraft and how flying works more than most people on their way to New Jersey. What I didn?t know was that there were now video screens, cell phones and... why we were flying to New Jersey?

The flight was wonderfully pleasant, uneventful, and the only thing that really blew was the inflight movie. Maybe I?m still player hating Julia Roberts for not having Benjamin Bratt?s baby. Did I mention that they had a whole stack of older magazines to read on flight as well?

I cannot state more emphatically that I am one hundred percent west coast, born and raised, puro west side por fin? that being said, if this country were a High School, New York City would be the Varsity, LA would be the JV, and the rest of the cities Frosh-Soph, parts of the rural South being the third string goon platoon, as far as cityscapes go.

Night fell as we descended into a stormy New Jersey din, the plane bumped, glided then rolled onto the tarmac, then my watch was immediately three hours behind. I was comforted to know that we arrived on Chicano time.

We flew into Newar,k New Jersey because most airports adjacent to Manhattan are in relative proximity, usually 55 bucks away. While waiting on the luggage, I met a Russian man in a suit who said, ?Yo, anybody needs a Limo ride to midtown?? My retort was typically Californian, how much and what kind of a car is it? He said he had a Lincoln Town Car and it would be around forty bucks.

Fifty-five bucks lighter, seated in crush velvet Ford Econoline Van conversions seats I found my hand entangled in the van?s mini-blinds trying to pull it up hoping to get a glimpse of New Jersey, as we made our way past several fast pass toll booths into mid town. I rolled up the shade saw something out of Mad Max, for miles blue gray industrial flats, no signs of life, or Jimmy Hoffa.

Coming though the Holland Tunnel into New York, suddenly everything was monolithically tall, lighted and people streamed from alleyways, out onto the rain washed sidewalks.

The 24-7 city was alive with neon color, glimmering yellow taxis racing to and fro, and as we honked and jerked closer to our destination ?Times Square ? sensory overload started to take over. I felt like Dorothy when she woke up in Oz and everything went from black and white into living color, then I knew that we were nowhere near Calfias anymore.

Next week in part two; While sightseeing I accidentally walked back to New Jersey, tossing up the west coast set at TRL and Japanese TV, 3 Double deck bus tours, and how we scored free tickets to The Late Show with David Lettermen.

About Al Carlos Hernandez:
This is the first part of three.

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