The Cranky Ol' Bat

Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death! - RuPaul


Places to Avoid Going if You Can....A Series of Opinionated Reviews

My latest place to avoid going isn't stationary, but still a little slice of travel hell. It's called Lufthansa economy class.

What brought up Lufthansa? Well, it seems like during President Bush's latest visit they were none too happy about having to wait to take off and land, and were thinking of suing El Presidente. I'll leave the politics for someone else. But after reading the article, it made me think of reasons that other people might have to sue Lufthansa, especially the poor bastards in the cheap seats.

What makes Lufthansa's economy class that much worse than, say, any other carrier? Several things on my (hopefully) only round-trip on that airline stood out, and believe me, they weren't good.

They have the absolute worst airline seats in the world. Sure, they offer them for sale on their website. But before you plunk down your hard-earned dollars, pounds or euros, here's a quick way to find out exactly what you are going to get for your money. Take a hard wooden or plastic chair, drape a fluffy towel over it, and sit in it for twelve hours. If that seems like fun, have issues best resolved by a therapist or dominatrix.

Then, add in the fact that my seatmates, both of whom were shorter than me, had no leg room whatsoever. When a woman who is 5'2" finds it difficult to get enough room in an airline seat, you know you're tightly packed in there. The only way I could get any leg room was to either a) stick my legs out in the aisle, or b) sit in a way that could not be described as ladylike during meal service, since the crew would love to ram that cart right into your knees and feet given half the chance. Fortunately I was sitting both times in a window seat row. I don't want to imagine what the poor suckers in the center row had to deal with. They didn't look happy, either.

They had the most disgusting bathrooms I've ever seen on a plane. Yeah, it's bad enough when a bathroom smells strongly of urine at the end of a trip. But at the beginning? And what are the odds that it would happen on both legs of a round-trip, unless slacking off in the custodial service is standard operating procedure?

Look, lavatories on a plane aren't like bathrooms on the ground. You almost always have the option of avoiding that stall. That's not possible on a plane, especially when the Palace Guard in first class won't let you use the lavatories in their section. When you have men wondering aloud if they can perform "the seat hover maneuver", and there's a glimpse of fear in their eyes, you know it's bad.

Germany ain't a customer service paradise, but this was ridiculous! I didn't speak any polite German before I went to visit my little brother beyond "Danke", "bitte", "guten Tag", "Oktoberfest". But I sure didn't expect the involuntary immersion lessons on board the flight.

Unless Lufthansa is different from every other airline that I have ever flown on internationally, it's pretty much standard procedure for the flight crew to speak the languages of the originating and ending countries. Common courtesy also dictates that if they are addressed in one of the (usually) two languages, that they will respond in that language. Not on Lufthansa, apparently.

I'll call her Ilsa. She was tall, blonde and looked like she stepped off of one of Hitler's recruiting posters. For some reason, Ilsa absolutely refused to believe that anyone vaguely Germanic looking could possibly not speak the language (in the interests of full disclosure, I'm tall, blonde and blue eyed. Not a drop of German blood, though, it was just one of those weird genetic things that happened when you mixed my parents....two Germanic-looking kids. Go figure.) The fact that it was a plane loaded with Americans, who are notorious for only speaking one language even though many of them have Germanic descent didn't or wouldn't register with her.

I know she spoke some English, because when the black gentleman sitting in front of me addressed her in English, she replied in English. But for some reason when I and the older Swedish gentleman sitting next to me addressed her in English, she insisted on speaking German. Our attempts to get her to speak English (the older gentleman kept saying "Sprechen Sie Englisch?", since for reasons dealing with World War 2 he had a personal problem with being forced to speak German) were ignored. I gave up after a while and answered her in the very limited German I picked up over the past week when she asked what wine I wanted with "dinner". I guess that made Ilsa's day, based on the smug look she got once I answered "Rote."

Thank God I didn't run into her on the way over....I'd have been forced to use the only other German words I knew at the time. The mildest one was Scheissehunde.

To their credit, they did not give us an insincere "Thank You, please fly Lufthansa again!" as we got off the plane. But I think that was only because a group of Mexican passengers were calling the airline "Luftwaffe" and making cracks about this flight being Germany's revenge for getting their asses kicked. Nicht gut!

Better alternative: Any domestic airline with international flights makes an effort to provide a higher class of service on the transoceanic runs, and they definitely make an effort to keep the restrooms clean. Of the other foreign flag carriers I have flown, the service has been flawless (Finnair and Aer Lingus).

Only travel on Lufthansa if there is absolutely no alternative. If you can grab a seat on, say, Air Sudan instead, take it. Spend the extra $50 to take another airline. You'll be thankful when you use the lavatory.

Cocktail of the Week

Sometimes, you just don't have the cocktail you need at the right time. Yesterday, the Tsar and I decided to try Pink Gin. I read about it in that Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails book that I checked out earlier.

The Tsar and I were feeling adventurous and thought we would try it. It's simple enough....bitters and gin. Yep, two ingredients guaranteed to scare the crap outta most drinkers. We read the description, got the Plymouth gin and Angostura bitters, and decided to drink like Royal Navy men of old.

Damn crap isn't even pink, I said to the Tsar. It was a nasty shade of orangey-brown.

Tonight, I talked to an old friend of mine who has just been through Family Court. Common sense would dictate that you don't send a child back into a home where molestation occurred....but, if you agree with that, chances are you are not a Family Court judge. How do you tell your old friend that yes, you unfortunately can believe what just happened, and you have heard far worse? You can't, not when you can hear your friend's heart breaking from a thousand miles away.

Pink Gin goes down cold, hard, and unforgiving. Dammit, I need one tonight.



Every now and then, I amuse myself by typing things into Google and seeing what pops up when I hit the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button.

This is what came up when I typed in "horrible vacation".

I bet the welcoming reception doesn't have an open bar either. $%^#!!!!


How to Entice the Tourists Back After a Tsunami

Some people get it, and others don't.

Blow Me, TSA!!

Sorry, couldn't resist....

Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport has just installed two devices for detecting explosives on passengers. It detects residues that are collected by little puffs of air blown onto the traveler.

Still no word on if they are ever going to allow us to keep our damn shoes on when we go through security, though. (Thanks, Richard Reid!)


Sakura Matsuri

Now, really, did you think the Jet Set Chick would not mention a festival celebrating delicate pink cherry blossoms? Soon it will be party time in Washington, and I don't mean anything political.

Nope, I personally never made it there in time. I did see quite a few of the petals blowing around the last time I was in DC, but I didn't get to see them in all their glory. Damn. Will post a link to a cherry blossom cam as soon as one is up & running.

In the meantime, if you have some spare time and want to see DC at it's loveliest, start making your plans. This site has the details on what's happening and what's (relatively) cheap. Enjoy!


Signs & Portents....

OK, I really don't know what to make of this....

Seattle: Annual precipitation 5.4 inches since 1 January

Phoenix: Annual precipitation 4.75 inches officially since 1 January at Sky Harbor

One of my buddies,DragonStormInAZ, said he had reports of close to 7 inches out in the 'burbs.

And supposedly another storm is coming in from California.

One good thing about it is that it should be one of the best wildflower seasons on record here in Arizona. The pictures don't do it justice. Trust me on that.

Just remember...if you are out here in Arizona and choose to check them out, don't pick the flowers. Yup, it looks like there are a lot out there, but a) maybe your mama would like you in the picture, but I doubt anyone else out there would, and b) the last thing those flowers need is some doofus clomping around acting like a dork in the middle of the meadow stomping on them.


Cocktail of, week

Well, the Jet Set Chick is not a tee-totaler. Neither is the Tsar. We came across a nifty little book this weekend at the library called Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails. Since we are forever in search of the weird, we had to check this thing out. Then....we decided to try something.

We decided on the Jack Rose, for two very simple reasons....the Tsar because it contains applejack, a brandy that still has a taste of apples (his favorite fruit), and me, well....because it's a pretty shade of pink. (Bet that's a shocker, ain't it?)

Now, quite frankly, we didn't care much for the recipe in the book, so we tried the one on the applejack bottle instead. We enjoyed it soooo much that the bottle of applejack is now a half-bottle of applejack.

The recipe for this little cup o' ambrosia goes like this:

2 jiggers applejack
1 jigger lime juice
1/2 jigger grenadine

Pour it all into a cocktail shaker, add ice, shake & strain.

Yeah, I know, we should've picked something kinda cherry, say the holiday purists. But considering George Washington drank it, the very same stuff we were consuming last night (Laird's, established in the late 1700's, available at AJ's if you are in the Phoenix area for about $15 per bottle), we'll save the cherry stuff for another time.

Like when we're done with the bottle of applejack.....


No, they don't work at Wal-Mart

Ever go somewhere and wish that a local could show you around....but you don't know anyone there? Some cities have volunteers, called greeters, who will take you to some of their favorite spots. For free, even.....check them out!

New York
San Francisco

Hey, anything that helps you avoid pizza that sucks is good to me!!


So Much For Cheap Pets....

The Tsar has been pretty cool with the idea that he's the only guy in an apartment full of females. Ok, two of the females bark and shed a lot. But at least he was always "da MAN".

Now, he has two other guys in the house. Our new bettas, to be precise. I picked out the turquoise one named Frank, and the Tsar picked out the red one named Santino. (yeah, been watching too many mafia sue us!)

Anyway, you would think that two fish that cost about $3 each would be relatively cheap. Nope!

First, we had to get them a tank. Like, duh....but then, due to the Tsar's diligent research, we found out that the 1 1/2 gallon one was not sufficient. Ok.....told him to go get a new one.

So he got this kinda cool one with a built-in light and divider that holds about 2 1/2 gallons. The problem with this one is that the divider doesn't quite reach across the whole tank. Santino started zipping over to Frank's side, which as anyone who knows even the slightest bit about bettas can tell you, is not a good thing. It was amusing when they switched sides of the tank, but then we realized this one wasn't going to work, either.

Off to the specialty fish store we went, and got them a 10 gallon tank (the Tsar was adamant that they needed 5 gallons each for their mental health.....or something like that). Of course, there was no divider for that size, so we had to make one. And get a heater, and a filter, and a lamp, and some new rocks..... We were able to move over the plants to the big tank, so at least we didn't have to test out the decorations in the store with a pair of my old nylons to see if they would snag the fins if they brushed against them.

Then came the aquarium salt specially designed for freshwater fish. Yes, there is such a thing. Who knew?

Santino had a tiny little hole in his fin, so we have to get some special meds for that. And a test kit for the pH levels in the water. Can't forget the frozen brine shrimp and the frozen bloodworms for food. (BTW, you can't touch the bloodworms with your fingers, since many people develop an allergic reaction to them and develop flu-like symptoms in severe cases. I kid you not. When we feed them to Frank & Santino, we need to get toothpicks to ensure we don't touch the worms....anyway, since the bettas like to snap at the toothpicks to get the worms in the first place, it is probably a bad idea to feed them by hand anyhow unless you like tiny little fish bites on your fingers....)

Now, apparently, they need buddies according to the Tsar. Can't wait to see what Frank & Santino's new friends (most likely neon tetras) will require. After all, they're only about a buck each.


Best Damn Pie In Arizona

Why I woke up thinking about pie this morning is a mystery. But, I am prone to weird, random thoughts popping up on this here blog, and it's vaguely travel related (as in ROAD TRIP!!!), so here goes.

You gotta end up in this funky little truck stop place called the Trading Post in Wikieup. Wikieup is a dot on the map halfway between Las Vegas and Phoenix on US93. It's one of those places in the middle of nowhere, nothing to see around here, kids...

I was last there about a year ago, when I road-tripped up to Vegas with a friend of mine from New York. She loves to drive and hates to fly. And she had a cute rental car (yellow Mustang), so why the hell not? Off we went.

On the way there, I told Lizette we had to stop in Wikieup. At first she thought there would be something wonderful to see. I told her, no, we're gonna have some pie. She looked at me like I was nuts. Pie? I replied, it's the only way I can stand driving up to Vegas. Gotta stop for some pie.

This is glorious pie, folks. Admittedly, I haven't tried all the varieties (I've only had the peach), but I don't think I'm missing out by not trying the other two (apple and cherry). It comes to you in it's own little ceramic deep dish. The crust is perfect and the fat chunks of peach are in a wonderful glaze with a hint of cinnamon. I guess you could share it. I never traveling companion can have a bite but then they better get one of their own. Generosity has it's limits.

You can get it to go. I brought one back for a friend of mine who thought I was nuts, saying a little hole in the wall had the best pie in Arizona. He became a believer.

The Trading Post was originally built sometime in the 30's out of old railroad ties, and other crap lying around. It's on the east side of the highway going through what there is of Wikieup. They've spiffed up the outside a bit, so business must be good. I think it was sort of pinkish (didn't notice much.....sometimes I have a real one-track mind), and it had a gas station out front. When you come inside, there's toilets to left (25 cent charge to use for non-customers), a little gift shop with Arizona tchochkes to the middle, and the restaurant to the right. Head right. Set yourself down and do yourself a favor.....get the pie.


Alternatives to Mardi Gras

BTW everyone, laissez les bon temps roulez, and save some pancakes for me!

(Yes, I know no one actually says that in New Orleans.....but I'm in Phoenix and can say whatever I want on my own damn blog. So there!)

Ok, maybe you didn't get your butt in gear in time, and now it's too damn late to get to the Crescent City. You are still in a party mood, and don't want to do the same ol' thing that everyone else is doing. Fair enough. For your consideration, gentle readers, the Jet Set Chick presents "Festivals I'm Sure Nobody You Know Has Ever Been To":

1) Congreso de Brujas in Catemaco, Mexico. Can't wait for Halloween? 4 March starts the fun with an annual festival of all things magical during this get-together for witches, wizards and's a two-hour drive from Veracruz, according to Frommer's. Put a hex on your ex!

2) Jamaica Carnival in Kingston. Ok, you missed the real date for Carnival. And maybe they'll even have the official website up by 27 March. ( But...this is the offseason for airfare to Jamaica. And where else can you find Carnival with a reggae beat? Or get some jerk goat? Yah, mon!

3) National Lawnmower Racing Championships in Lake Mendota, IL. Sorry, danger fans, no blades on the mowers.....but they do reach speeds of up to 60 MPH. If you have $15 to $25 and your own mower, maybe you can take home the prize! Head out 2 hours on Route 34 from Chicago. For more info, call 847-729-7363.

4) Spamarama in Austin TX. Just check the website. before 2 April. I know the brother of the Jet Set Chick would do well in the Spam Cram. Anyone who goes to Filiberto's to deliberately provoke a "green meat attack" (he says it's to keep his immune system revved up and ready for action....I think he just likes to eat cat meat. Angus beef my ass!) can handle BBQ fake ham. Can you?

If you still want to see more, check out this webpage:

Hey, any excuse for a party, right????

I STAND CORRECTED (12 Feb): Ok, my brother does not go to Filiberto's to provoke a "green meat attack" any more. He used to. He now eats week-old rotisserie chicken. It's still a bizarre habit and proof that he needs help. (Remember that Simpson's episode where Homer refuses to give up the sandwich that's turning bad until he eats the whole damn thing? That's my brother in 10 years.)

As if I needed any other reason to visit the Okavango Delta

Presenting.....the Honey Badger.

The what???? you are probably asking.

The Honey Badger, also known as a ratel. An African creature about the size of a medium size dog, that in a way resembles a skunk.

This seemingly innocuous looking beast has a few bizarre characteristics.

1) It will attack any animal....lions, wildebeests, you name it. It has no fear. And if the assailant is male, it goes straight for the nuts. Why mess around?

2) It seems to pal up with a bird called the Greater Honeyguide. The bird leads it to the hive, where the ratel, um, fumigates the bees. Beekeepers have reported stupefied bees at the scene of a ratel attack.

Ok, I'm easily amused. But someday, I think I want to go see one of these in the wild. If any of the readers of the Jet Set Chick have actually seen one of these (supposedly they are most active in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, and some place there called the Ngala Lodge has a resident pair), or knows of any other location where they could be seen, by all means, post the info in the comments. Or if you have been to Botswana, and know of other things to see or avoid, let me & the Tsar know that too.


Places To Avoid Going To If You Can....An Ongoing Series of Opinionated Reviews.

Yes, I know everyone out there is busy telling you which one of the 13,489 essential Wonders of the World you have to see before you die.

I'm going to tell you a place to avoid going to instead. That way you'll have more cash for the truly worthwhile.

Today's cross-it-off your list special is: Finland.

Reasons for NOT going to Finland include, but by no means are limited to the following:

1) It is expensive as hell. Yes, all of the neighboring Scandinavian countries have qualified under that standard as well. But they, unlike Finland, have their charms. Read on.

2) There's not a lot of there there. Helsinki, the capital, can be done in a day...and you still don't feel like you have seen anything worth the price of admission. I love forests and the fresh, clean air, myself, but, quite frankly, staring at trees for days on end ain't my idea of a fun time. The most exciting thing you can do is stay in your hotel room, watching MTV or CNN, because the last thing you wanna do is go out and meet the locals. Which brings us to my next point...

3) The natives are extremely unfriendly. I haven't met a single person who has had the misfortune of going to Finland who had anything nice to say about the people.

The more charitable have said that they are just painfully shy, and some of them have pointed to an ancient "60 Minutes" story about tango lessons in Helsinki to make that point. For those of you who missed it....someone in Finland noticed that single people in their country weren't hooking up, and thought that organizing dances would be a great way to get people to meet. They thought that tango lessons might steam some things up....after all, it seems to work that way in Buenos Aires. So, the tango lessons began. The Finns showed up and learned how to tango. Next stop.....wild orgy? Not quite. The Finns proved that technically perfect tango dancing, when done with a stubborn refusal to look into your partner's general direction, can be about as passionate as double-entry bookkeeping. I kid you not. It was like watching a train wreck seeing these people were horrified by the lack of emotion, but couldn't look away because you couldn't believe what you were seeing.

Also, if you happen to look the least bit Nordic and don't come across as typically American, you are in for special treatment when you go to a restaurant or a store. My encounters in such circumstances in Finland usually began with the employee addressing me in Finnish. When I tried to explain to them in my Berlitz Finnish that I do not speak their language, they got pissed. Seriously pissed in "how dare you impersonate a Finn?" pissed. (When a similar thing happened in neighboring Sweden, the Swedes just laughed it off before switching to English. Some of my travel mates used that to good advantage to hook up temporarily with a local in Stockholm. That never happened to anyone in Finland. Take note.)

And the final reason you don't want to deal with the locals......they are notorious drunks. Don't believe me? Well, one time me & the Tsar were discussing various nationalities' reputations for alcoholism. With a perverse sense of pride, he challenged me to name a people who drink more than the Russians. I smiled sweetly and said, "the Finns." He sighed and said, "Yeah, you're right."

Look, vacation time is short and travel dollars are precious. Why go somewhere that sucks?

Better Alternative: Sweden. Especially if you can take a ferry ride through the harbor at Stockholm. If you don't see at least one little island with a house on it that you don't fantasize about living on when you pass it, check your pulse. The people are gorgeous, and there is nowhere lovelier on a sunny day.


Things to do in Phoenix if you're bored.....

Well, I would be doing them myself, if I didn't have to go to Superbowl parties and talk to a friend having a major crisis in the man department (I still don't understand how all of a sudden I'm some LOVE EXPERT to my single friends since I got married.....)

But if you are so inclined, there are three things to consider, even though technically none is in Phoenix.

1) Snowbowl, up by Flagstaff, has been having the best season in probably five years. You can get a three day skiing pass for $130 and a three day snowboarding pass for $140. It includes the lift ticket & equipment rental. Basically, you get a day for free.

2) Drive along the Apache Trail. After all the rain we had last month, the wildflowers are blooming, and there's actually water in Roosevelt Lake. Again, it should be one of the best seasons in five years. Go all the way to Tortilla Flats and try some prickly pear ice cream. It's pink, pretty, and has no needles in it.....dive in.

3) And if your butt just ain't big enough, go to the Glendale Chocolate Affaire. The centerpiece is a 350 lb chocolate heart that they are raffling off to benefit some teen council activities. Since the theme is romance, there's lotsa chocolate, a bunch of romance novelists and horse carriage rides to get you in the mood. It's going on all weekend at Murphy Park (58th Av & Glendale), free admission.

Things not to do:

1) Shangri-La Nudist Resort. Still too cold. Unless you are visiting from Minnesota, you'll probably freeze something off that you would like to keep attached to your body.

The Tsar is still trying to talk me into that one. What that boy has against clothes is something I am still trying to figure out. But if it is too cold for a Muscovite, it's more than likely too cold for you. If you go and get frostbite, were warned.