Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Taking the Air out of Hooters and Hooters Out of the Air

Rising fuel prices and fierce competition between budget airlines and industry stalwarts claim another victim: Hooters Air. The Myrtle Beach-based airline will terminate its operations in April, preserving only a few chartered flights out of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Augured by the steady winnowing of its fleet and cities of service, Hooters' demise comes as no surprise to industry analysts. It might, however, depress breast-men, including my first-class row-companion on a recent flight who, while detailing his myriad domestic and international trips, lamented a single omission in his cosmopolitan cavorting: never having flown aboard Hooters Air. Perhaps Delta will alleviate his regret by hiring Hooters' soon-to-be jobless flight attendants. I'm sure they'd look splendid in those new red uniforms.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Tasty Pie in the Sky

Ever wondered what's for breakfast, lunch and dinner aboard various domestic and international flights? The answer to your question resides here. This website provides passenger descriptions and ratings of meals aboard hundreds of flights across a range of airlines. Your mouth will salivate over the pictures of first-class meals served aboard Singapore Airlines and Air France. Meanwhile, your stomach might turn at some of the economy offerings aboard Delta, Northwest and USAir. The quality of the photos is surprisingly good, and many passengers offer colorful descriptions of their edibles. Give it a look!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Amtrak's Dying Diner

Yesterday morning I rode Amtrak's Crescent train from Charlottesville to Washington, DC. I've ridden this train many times over the past few years, and with much pleasure, since its 7AM arrival means I get to enjoy a hot plate of freshly-fried eggs, sausage and hash browns as gorgeous scenery--illuminated by the rising sun--passes by.

In my last post, I mentioned that Amtrak will soon eliminate its dining cars (except aboard the Empire Builder and the Auto Train)and replace full-service dining with airplane-style tray meals. Yesterday I learned from the waiter that this change will take place aboard the Crescent in April--sooner than I had expected.

Already, though, Amtrak--under pressure from critics, congressmen and many others--has gutted its dining service. It took a full hour for my meal to appear yesterday, and when it did, it wasn't what I had ordered, and it was chilly. I waited fifteen minutes more for a croissant and a coffee refill. I didn't care, since I love watching the scenery, but inside it wasn't a pretty sight as one waiter tried to serve everyone and an understaffed kitchen tried futilely to fill all the orders. If this is how Amtrak has cut its operating costs in recent months--by ordering things such that employees can't perform their jobs with accuracy, care or pleasure--then perhaps it's for the better that dining cars--and perhaps sleeper cars--be eliminated. Truth be told, the things I love about Amtrak simply aren't compatible with the deep budget cuts and the "self-sufficiency" ideology being peddled by economists and politicians. It's a sad, but all to true, conclusion.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Amtrak's Final Breaths?

Amtrak's acting chief, David Laney, appears committed to restructuring Amtrak's long-distance train service. Unless David Gunn's replacement, who likely won't be appointed until May, marshals support from heretofore silent corners or works a miracle, several of Amtrak's trains will be in severe danger. Most endangered: the Sunset Limited. Amtrak may opt to eliminate the train or shorten its route. The SL hasn't operated between Florida and New Orleans since October due to extensive damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Bolstering Amtrak's critics' case is the fact that the SL runs on schedule only 7% of the time.

I, unfortunately, haven't had the opportunity to ride the Sunset Limited, and it appears I may never. Already the experience is changing, as Amtrak replaces its full service diner with more microwave and pre-prepared meals. In the distance looms the prospect of Amtrak eliminating sleeper cars, parlour cars and other first class amenities we've come to know and love. Tomorrow morning I will ride the Crescent, and I'll provide an update on the status of its dining car. I'll also chat with the waitresses and kitchen staff to gauge their reaction to the changes.

Lost Luggage

Did you know that airlines temporarily lost 30 million bags last year? 200,000 of those were never found. United Airlines once separated me from my bag for five days. I was flying out of John Wayne Airport in Orange County, returning to Baltimore (BWI), and when I arrived, my bag was nowhere to be found. Assuming my bag hadn't made the connection (it was a tight one in Denver), I filed a missing bag report and went on to Washington DC, expecting that it would be delivered the next day. Alas, it didn't arrive, and I had to return to Charlottesville the next day. Because I had been in California for two weeks, I had taken most of my wardrobe (that's right, I'm a poor grad student) on the trip, and consequently had to buy some shirts and socks in D.C.

I spent hours on the phone with United, berating them for losing my bag and trying to figure out what the compensation would amount to. Back in Charlottesville, I received a call from an America West agent in Phoenix alerting me that my bag had turned up in their lost luggage office. How it got there, I'll never know. Two days later it was back in Charlottesville, intact and with no items missing. United "apologized" with a fifty dollar voucher that could be used only when booking on the phone. My gratitude, to say the least, was limited.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

New Rail Blog!

Marcel over at TrainBlog alerted me to the launch of NARP's (National Association of Railroad Passengers) first weblog. They've posted several times this week; the most interesting post describes a new Harris survey showing strong support for freight and passenger rail among the American public. A different post takes a few interesting shots at budget airlines, Southwest in particular. I look forward to future posts!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Another Fare Hike!

Reuters reports that Delta today raised its fares by $5.00 on routes where it doesn't compete with Southwest. Shortly after, JetBlue and other airlines followed suit. Although customers might wince at higher prices, in the long run this is good news; because without fare hikes, certain airlines, Delta among them, might go out of business, and fewer airlines would mean less competition and even higher prices.

This Is Your Ben On Drugs

Two years ago, while returning to Charlottesville from DC aboard Greyhound (before I promised to go miles in debt before riding Greyhound ever again) I was pulled off the bus in Springfield, VA to have my bags searched for drugs. I assume the search was random, but it's possible the agents mistook my usual apprehension at riding Greyhound as evidence that I had something to hide.

It first appeared that the agents--dressed in plain-clothes--were simply new passengers boarding the bus. But after they paced the aisle several times, it became clear that they were looking for something else. Finally, they stopped at my seat and requested that I step off the bus with my bags so that they could search them. Always a docile subject, I readily consented; in hindsight, though, I wonder what would have transpired had I said no. My fear at the time was that while I might been within my rights to refuse the search, the agents might have been within their rights to detain me and cause me to miss my departure.

Hilariously, when I reboarded the bus, several passengers asked me what the agents were looking for. When I responded, "drugs," one woman responded, "Shit, I'm glad they didn't pick me." No word on what narcotics--or what else--she was packing, but suffice it to say--based on the amen chorus that followed her comment--that had the agents performed a sweep, rather than a random search, they might have had to build a new jail in Springfield, Virginia.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Lucre for Luggage?

In a frontpage article today, the Detroit News reports that Northwest Airlines will soon begin charging non-elite customers for exit row seats and seats located at the front of the plane. The cost? $15 each way, if they are available. Elite customers will continue to enjoy priority access to these seats, at least for now.

More surprising, the article alleges that in the near future Northwest and other Airlines will begin charging an extra fee for checked baggage. After that, customers may face charges for on-board sodas, water, pretzels and peanuts. These cutbacks stem from competitive pressure applied by budget airlines like Southwest and JetBlue. Even these latter airlines are beginning to experience financial woes. JetBlue, as Patrick pointed out in an earlier post, predicts a loss for the current budget year, and yesterday Southwest hiked its one-way fares (see AP article) for the second time this year due to rising fuel costs. Where will this all end? Probably in slightly higher fares than we've become accustomed to and in significantly worse service.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Warning for MBCR travelers...

Do NOT attempt to open up the door at the end of the coach without the permission of the train conductor. As I was approaching my destination at Gloucester, MA today (this happens to be where the film "The Perfect Storm" was set), I got up out of my seat as the train was slowing to a stop at Gloucester Depot, along with a number of other people. There was a college-aged girl standing behind me, waiting to get off the train like me, singing Mariah Carey-like shit to herself (the high-pitched stuff that Mariah can no longer sing since she became ghetto-ish and is doped up on prescription drugs that have affected her voice). So the train stopped, and I saw the conductor in the articulation just behind the window, so when the train was stationary, I opened the door, thinking that the stopped position was a cue to disembark. Well, the door was promptly shut after I began to open it, with the conductor shouting, "STAY BACK...NO STOP HERE". No big deal, right? Well, that was until Ms. Mariah started to laugh at me and exclaim, "haha, you got served..." and continued to laugh as a bunch of other college aged thugs egged her on to make a speactacle out of this. I played along, and when the conductor finally opened the door at our marked destination, he grinned at me and I apologized for my faux pas. After all, the last time I was on a train, I was taking the CalTrain from Menlo Park to San Jose, CA...there, they let anyone open whatever door and stand in the articulations until they can step off (I spent a good portion of one ride from San Francisco to Menlo attempting to find a restroom...I realized I was at a dead end when I could no longer continue into another car and found that I was next to the rumbling engine). I apologized, trying to act cool, and the conductor was nice about it. But that fucking bitch behind me..." got got served, brotha...hahaha".

The ride back was uneventful, except for riding next to this hot couple of guys on their way to a Bruins game at the Garden, paying full attention to this older couple who didn't know how to shut up and told stories to us (including me) on their way from Gloucester to Beverly Depot. They really were loud and entertaining...she looked like a train wreck (sorta like Kyra Sedgwick) and he was some loud-ass northerner who thought he was hot stuff (actually, he was...except that he acted like a friggin' meathead).

The Commuter Rail really is a nice aspect to the aging and ailing MBTA. The MBCR (Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail) operates an efficient train system throughout the eastern half of Massachusetts. It will take passengers from North or South Stations in Boston proper to points as far west as Worcester, south to Providence, RI, and north to Cape Ann, Rockport and Newburyport. I use this system from time to time to take the opportunity to photograph some of New England's most quaint hour ride will take you to the absolutely most picturesque seaside communities in Massachusetts. The fares are decent (at most a $12 round trip), and the trains are failrly comfortable...coaches seating individuals 2-aisle-3 (similarly to Amtrak trains...the coaches are just as wide). The seating is blue and red vinyl...not the plush, modern cloth seating of the CalTrain, but you cannot have everything. The newer coaches feature purple vinyl seating, and trains from South Station are double-decked (since the rails south of Boston can accomodate higher clearances), which is extea fun. The conductors are old-fashioned (annoucing stops with their own cultivated, and trademarked, voice inflections) while passing through the aisles greeting customers in their flat caps and nifty hand punches. Nothing beats the scenery along the MBCR, however.

After riding a few different commuter rail systems in the US, I still feel that the MBCR will forever hold a special place in my heart for its efficiency (at least during non-peak hours), its interesting clientele (always a great place for people-watching), and its ability to maintain an old-fashioned manner of doing business ("welcome tickets? Next stop Bevalee Depooooooooooo").

Bottoms Up!

A bit of airline trivia…

Name the only US carrier to offer free alcoholic beverages on domestic flights.

Winner gets a pint...

Frequent Flier Considerations

An earlier post castigated American Airlines for pulling a "bait and switch" with its frequent flier program. The airline refitted its planes to offer more legroom than its competitors and advertised "more legroom" in order to earn customer loyalty. Soon after, however, the airline reconfigured its planes to return to the same cramped seating found on every other domestic airline.

Fortunately for American's frequent fliers, the airline still offers one of the best frequent flier mileage redemption programs among the trunk carriers. It has relatively good availability for mileage redemption for flights on American and its partners, including Alaska Airlines. For 25,000 miles, I was able to book a flight to Missoula, Montana. Other airlines required as much as 50,000 miles for the trip, if seats were even available.

Friday, March 10, 2006

West By Northwest

Next Monday I'll make my return trip to Virginia aboard Northwest Airlines. It may very well be my last with this airline. Although my elite status with Delta, one of Northwest's partner airlines, enabled me to grab bulkhead seats on both flights between DTW and SFO, the extra legroom did not compensate for the lack of on-board amenities and the less than friendly flight attendants I encountered.

Granted, my negative experience was in part a function of weather. An ice storm afflicted Detroit on the day of my travel, and although it didn't prevent my turboprop flight from landing on time, it managed to stall my flight to SFO--before departing the gate and then again while waiting for and undergoing de-icing.

The flight from Charlottesville to Detroit aboard the Saab Turboprop was barely bearable. I had selected seat 1A for the extra legroom (what little is to be found aboard this barebones bird) but the computer moved me to 7A for "weight and balance" purposes. Had I known this was a possibility, I would have selected an exit row, but once I was made aware, all exit row seats were taken. Smooth save a few bumps during descent, the flight passed muster, but I can't say much for spending over two hours in a cramped turboprop.

The flight from DTW to SFO was CROWDED. Not an empty seat to be found. The plane smelled like an armpit-outhouse hybrid and the flight attendants appeared as displeased and as inconvenienced as I felt. I wasn't expecting a meal onboard--almost all domestic airlines have phased out meal service except in first class (even certain first class flights now lack meal service!)--but a complimentary snackbox, like the one served by Delta, would have been nice. Instead I was asked to pay 3 bucks for a box consisting of some cheese, crackers and other low-grade items--and in case that was too much food for my gluttonous palate, they also offered some "premium" trail mix for a dollar a bag. As John Stossel, whom I despise, would say, "Gimme a Break!"

My bulkhead perch (hardly "elite"--I sat in the middle and the woman to my left slept the entire way, mouth open, bad breath streaming out) offered me a view of first class, and I must compliment Northwest for using actual glassware. Unfortunately, I heard some frequent Northwest flyers complaining that it's almost impossible to get an upgrade. With the plane filled to the brim, I'm not surprised.

Like John, I enjoyed the Detroit airport and wish I could relocate it to Atlanta. But so long as DTW remains Northwest's hub, and not a different airline's, I'll be steering clear of the Motor City.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

North by Northwest Part II

For those of you who enjoyed John's poetic account of his trip to Boston, I offer you his equally salty and sassy account of the return trip. Note: his description of DTW as Disney World hits the nail on the head. And like John, I have eaten at DTW Chili's (breakfast tacos, no less) and have also been served by the energetic Marlon.

"Boston has many sights, and Evan kindly showed me a good number of them. One thing I hadn't expected to see however was so many people with only one leg. Boston must be the monoplegia capital of the North East. I suggest that they make this part of their next tourist campaign, as all these individuals seemed to be getting along fine and the one-legged silhouette tackling the trail of freedom could serve as a far more meaningful mascot than lobsters.

I suppose this sticks in my mind because yesterday I was reading a Wallace Stevens poem where he states to work out the number of souls in a room divide the number of human legs by two. This twoleggedcentric view, Mr Stevens (wherever your soul now resides) is not true of the Massachusetts Bay area. I would however recommend sitting on a futon in Boston reading Wallace Stevens' collected poems with a cool breeze and noise from the street coming in through the window as the sun comes down and the ink of the words on the page gradually become indistinct form the encroaching gloom as an excellent Sunday afternoon activity. If you have just walked two miles of largely uneven and uphill streets this only adds to the experience. As does red wine.

Dear God the T system in Boston is ugly. UGly. That color scheme! Tiles of the most disquieting concoction of red and maroon; oranges and greens whose pungency actively wounds the palate; dark brown laminate wood effect panels that are everything that is bad about human manufacture. The whole thing makes Washington DC Greyhound station look like it was designed with the same care as the set for the Oscars.

Speaking of which: Heath woz robbed!

I must say I was somewhat taken aback to see the initials of North Western Airlines emblazoning the header of their inboard magazine. Presumably they don't expect many of their customers to recall that NWA was the name of an infamous hip-hop group fifteen or so years ago. I won't spell out what it stood for here (look it up) but rest assured that “a crazy motherf--ker named Ice Cube” wasn't professing to be a member of _Northwesterners_ With Attitude?

Otherwise, flight from Boston fairly uneventful. I was not pleased to see an irritable German woman (which is to say, a German woman) being unsympathetic to her doleful male traveling companion, as he leaned his big lovely lugubrious German head on her, stroked her on the ass, and complained about his ears hurting (in German). What is her problem? Some of us would kill to be treated like this. I for one would love for someone to use me unequivocally as an object in this way, but some people apparently have a problem with it. While we were stuck waiting in the purgatorial white noise once the plane had stopped but movement seemed forestalled for the remainder of eternity, I was tempted to stroke his head as he leaned it on her shoulder (What? Everyone's happy). I refrained however, continuing to gaze transfixed at the bewilderingly complicated table in NWA magazine which reveals that the recent movie version of _Pride and Prejudice_ is available on the flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis, but not Amsterdam to Mumbai. Strange, but, as is so often the case, true?

I have nothing against Germans of course, except the world wars. I too would be irritable if I had grown up in Germany and had to use the transport system anywhere else in the world. You should see a German in the line at Stansted Airport, London. That is a laugh.

There is a Chilis inside Detroit airport. IN THE AIRPORT. Anyone who knows my penchant for the welcoming palaces of light that are American chain restaurants will understand my glee at this discovery. And one doesn't even need a car; instead, the aforementioned metro train will whiz any needy domestic US travelers along its internal superhighway to this beacon of hope and joy and twenty-four hour onion rings. I feel like I am in Disneyland. Which is to say, heaven.

This said, I wish my server had been brassy blonde Roxanne* and her panda-like overapplication of eye makeup rather than dopey black probable ex-con Marlon whose thick black spectacles and effete manner would normally endear me to him had he not forgotten to bring me my beer.

*Names have been changed out of respect to Chilis and Detroit (Motor City).

Beer arrived. Marlon is on the path to reform. If he keeps this up, I may even leave him a tip.

I just heard Marlon wish another party to “Have a safe trip, come back and see us” Come back and see us! Bless. Tonight his tip shall ascend to the dizzy heights of fifteen percent. AT LEAST.

The possibilities this has unlocked are endless. Thank you academia! At this rate your contribution to the future of humanity might just approach that of IBM.

Can someone please kindly tell me the expected time one should reach one's departure gate. When I first arrived at Charlottesville and walked up to check in my luggage the guy looked at me disapprovingly and said “Are you John?” I half expected him to drag me in front of the other passangers with my head hanged and say: “Well, who's THIS everybody? Look who FINALLY decided to show!” I get to the planes in Detroit with at least 20-30 minutes to spare but still receive looks of death.

On the plane. NWA is everywhere: how did I not notice?

The passenger sitting by the emergency door has a lot of responsibility it seems. I don't know if he's up to the job, as he is a bit of a fatknacker. The instructions demand a great deal and, with a strategic removal of nouns, may also function as a helpful set of requirements for a potential sexual partner:

“To meet the selection criteria you must: have sufficient mobility, strength, and dexterity in both *** and ****, and both **** to: reach upward, sideways and downwards to the location of *****; grasp and push, pull, turn or otherwise manipulate those *******; push, shove, pull or otherwise open ******** ****; lift out, hold, deposit on **** ****, or maneuver over the ***** to the ***** ****; maintain balance while removing ***** etc.”

In this connection, I especially like the final instruction: “exit expeditiously”

I realize it is somewhat predictable to mock the laminated card of illustrated instructions in the event of a plane crash. This said, I must take issue with one illustration in particular: a woman in a flouncy skirt passing through the emergency exit window and gracefully sliding off the wing to land with a jolly bounce on a floor of plush grass. Not only does this completely misrepresent the actual distance between wing and ground, it also shows the man in front of her on this unrealistically carpeted landing place bounding along like a child in a Blake sketch practically “leaping, laughing” as he skips off into the meadow. In reality he would probably be flailing away with a broken ankle as he desperately claws his way beyond the hellish wreckage and human carnage.

Dare I suggest that Route 29 looks even MORE beautiful from the air?

Back in Charlottesville. And, in true Oscars fashion, I would just like to thank everyone who got me where I am right now: Evan, gracious host and expert guide to Boston and environs, Benallaroundtheworld for believing in me and giving me a chance to be a part of this wonderful blog, Cory (girl, pretty) who gave me a ride back from the airport, Kristen (girl, pretty-heck, America's Next Top Model) who was on hand to do the same, all the little people: the women on the planes who gave me drinks and superfluous napkins, the cab driver I infer we must have had on Friday night but can't remember.

And with this, travelersallaroundtheworld, I worldlily bid you goodnight and, as Inspector Clouseau might say, Ben Voyage!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

North by Northwest (Via Detroit)

The following account comes from my friend John. It begins what I hope will be a series of colorful, and perhaps a bit off-color, travel narratives from Patrick, Evan, me and our friends. Hope you enjoy; and thanks, John:

“Have a good travel-day!” Thus I left Charlottesville airport. This compound was unknown to me, and I departed for Boston excited to explore this newly discovered unit of experience. I liked the airport, its plush carpets especially, and I was sad (as I usually am) when we proceeded to replace our removed shoes after security--a moment for me when the our collective edifice of buttoned-up self-control seems particularly fragile. Ease your feet off in the sea... Little else to report. The small Indian looking man didn't go on to blow up our plane. I mention this only because he was looking very serene kneeling on his airport chair and--short of Ghandi, and I doubt he flew Northwest--no one is that happy at 6.10 in the morning unless they're expecting shortly to be greeted by Allah as a valiant martyr and rewarded with twenty virgins. But this said, a good number of people get up at similar times to do yoga, willingly, under devotion to no other brutal doctrinal code than being health conscious and American-including none other than benallaroundtheworld HIMSELF, who after kindly picking me up at the ungodly hour of five am went off with his little mat to go and pretend to be a cobra or whatever the hell they make you do. And besides, I too would have had a serene look on my face had I known the twenty-first century nirvana awaiting our plane in Detroit?

As the rickerty plane rattles its was through the clouds, I stare down to the darkness below, the pinprick streetlights inserting here and there little dimpled pockets into the landscape. I entertain myself wondering what John Clare, writing his poems in the 1820s, who found the prospect of his village's church spire from a distance so enthralling--and terrifying--would have made of this, while at the back of the plane my fellow infrequent flyers' shared wonder as they press their noses against the tiny panes reminds me that we're not all so disillusioned in 2006. And just as I am having my Whitmanian vision of all the people about to start all their days, we rise up a layer into the cloud and the messy spillage of life is pressed down upon as by a square of kitchen towel and dabbed into nothing--or, depending on your perspective I suppose, everything.

“Welcome to Motor City!” I did not understand my flight attendant's phrase, and did not want to, but whatever the reason Detriot has retained this ugly moniker, its airport is quite glorious with no motor oil or grime or smog to be seen. Not like London, but don't get me started on that. It's a bright day, giving a buttery tint to the burnished steel that elegantly runs the length of Detroit's showpiece airport, and the whole place is clean, streamlined, and if powered by motors they are, like the sprightly machinery of a Pope poem, little hidden discreetly whirring ones. Passing underground, I step on a moving walkway surrounded with all encompassing panels of bright red light and spacey music, changing to green, then blue, then purple, adding to my sense of travel-day metamorphosis I feel like I am passing through the gaudy flames of one of Blake's visions, but rather than letting my flesh completely melt away I settle on pretending I am in Japan and gaze on in pseudo-wonder, feeling like one of Sofia Coppola's spoiled heroines having a vapid “moment.”

I have to eat before taking in the full sights however, and despite the ravenous impulse that kicked in on seeing the first food establishment I came across, I concluded that 8am was too early for a seven dollar bacon cheeseburger, travel-day or no. By what twisted logic a bagel filled with a circle of egg product and topped with, yes, bacon and cheese has been made to seem a more natural breakfast choice I will never understand, but apparently not even I am invulnerable to its commands. What, by the way, is everything bagel? I mean, everything WHAT? Everything? EVERY thing? In some quasi-autistic way I find this concept quite terrifying, though it is appealing as an image for the universe.

I am not certain whether a strict dictionary antonym for "dynamism" exists, but until I find out I would like to propose the Einstein Brothers Bagel Co. at Detroit Airport. After having my order taken with a level of disinterestedness that made me wonder whether I was placing an order or commenting on the weather, my bagel then sat untended on a chopping board, bereft of its aforementioned contents, for several minutes as I sat waiting at the end of what can only with heavy irony be called a production line watching its links get progressively weaker.

Mistaking the arrivals for departures board--ROOKIE MISTAKE!--I stroll to the completely wrong end of the terminal thinking my gate has been changed, though this gives me a legitimate reason to then take the internal train that whizzes from one end back to the other; it looks like the things that set landspeed records in the desert, is cherry red and gets me back to the gate where I was waiting with just ten minutes to spare. I have seen the future and its name is Detroit.

The centrepiece of this pleasure dome built in air travel? A jumping fountain, projecting in every direction individually traceable spurts of water to make a kind of tubular ice sculpture crisscrossing its way through the air, these wibbering strings of rubbery ejaculate prompting the captivated smiles of many passers by--though I fixated on the goofy grin of one cute young man in particular--before just as quickly disappearing

flip flap flop
flip flap flop


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Give me a break!


SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson signed legislation into law on Wednesday that will allow his state to begin investing $110 million in a facility to launch tourists into space.

"These bills will help create tremendous economic impact for New Mexico, and particularly Southern New Mexico," Richardson said in a statement on the planned spaceport in Upham near the White Sands Missile Range.

"This is a unique opportunity for New Mexico to be on the ground floor of a new industry that will bring new companies, more high-wage jobs and opportunities that will move our state's economy forward," he added.

Helping fund the facility, estimated to cost $225 million, was a priority during the state's recent legislative session for Richardson, who wants to help British entrepreneur Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic build the spaceport.

The two bills Richardson signed would create the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, which will be able to issue bonds, and would allow local governments that would benefit from the facility to ask voters if they would support it and related development with a new local options gross receipt tax.