Today's post has a dual purpose. First, it will beg of you to click on this link. The link leads to my Iceland/Denmark Travelogue. You don't actually have to read the story, you just have to click the link. If you do, then I will score a few more hits in the contest that ends this weekend and I may win fabulous prizes (like $30 . . . hey, you know how many mochas you can get for that?).

Second, it will give you an introduction to my traveling companion - Amelie - so that you get an idea of how silly/panicked/lazy our travels can be. Here goes.

Having soaked up all the sunshine and heat and UV rays Belize had to offer, I whimsically accepted an offer to travel with my friend Amelie to the northern-most capital in the world and points east. The conversation went something like this . . .

"Hey, Baj, wanna go to Australia?"
(several months pass)
"Ummmm, Australia is too far and too expensive. How about Iceland?"
(few more week go by)
"Why don't we add Denmark too?"

And so it comes to pass that I present you with a combo-travelogue: "Break-ya-bank, Priceland" and "There's Something Rotten in That There Denmark State". In tonight's performance, the role of Lil Baji will be played by Amelie.

Pre-Day One: August 21, 2003
To get to Iceland, I first had to get to New York City to meet up with Amelie. I took the train which was supposed to take a little over three hours but delay after delay got me into the city five hours later. By then, I had exhausted my supply of York Peppermint Patties which I had intended to use as a substitute for brushing my teeth on the various planes and trains and buses through Scandinavia. Ah well.

Amelie met me at Penn Station and we dropped off my luggage at her lovely Lower East Side digs so we could discuss travel plans. DC had a heat-index of about 100 that day and I am certain that NYC reached those breath-robbing, brain-melting temperatures as well. Over a delicious Thai dinner, we caught up on each other's lives and swapped stories. Later, at the Pink Pony, we chatted over coffee and discussed literature, movies, and music. Even later, until about 5 a.m. the next morning, we talked about friends and family, quoted our favorite lines from film and television, tried out different accents and voices, did a few comedy routines and generally managed NOT to accomplish anything in the way of planning our trip as we had intended.

At 8:30 a.m., Amelie staggered off to work while I stumbled over to the computer for some last minute research for our trip. I sluggishly went out in search of Ray's Original Jumbo Slice Pizza for a Coke-and-a-slice (Thanks, Christopher Moltisanti!) and when I returned to the apartment, I was so wiped out by the heat that I couldn't even bear to open the pizza box. I cooled off, gobbled some cold pizza, and napped for a couple of hours until Amelie returned home, drenched and winded. We double-checked our packing, had lunch at the Pink Pony, and, since we had allotted ourselves plenty of time to reach JFK, leisurely made our way to the subway to catch the first A-train we saw. Unfortunately, it was not the right A-train. In fact, it was the completely wrong train to take and it wasn't until we reached the end of the line in the absolute opposite direction that we wanted that we realized that small but important fact. It was rush-hour on Friday afternoon and we were at the northern tip of Manhattan when we really wanted to be near the southern end of Queens. We looked at each other, dumbfounded and aghast, and jumped back on the now-empty train, anxiously waiting for it to switch directions and take us to our destination. Turns out, the Ramones had it wrong; it was very hard and it was very far to reach Far Rock Rock Rockaway Beach. We constantly checked the map and our watches, held our breaths at each stop, willed the train to go faster and mentally encouraged the conductor to refuse entry to the slow passengers who, with each passing minute, were making us late for our flight (Yes. That's right. It was the train and the other passengers' fault).

Amelie was so distraught that she could only retain a tiny nugget of information each time she went to look at the map to see how many more stops we had left. I consoled myself by imagining worse scenarios that made this one seem palatable. "Hey, at least we don't need dual emergency heart transplants and if we miss this flight and don't receive the healthy hearts awaiting us in Iceland, we'll die" kind of thing. At least I didn't share this out loud (please refer yourselves to the classic film "Young Frankenstein" and the genius line from it: "Could be worse . . . could be raining" . . . smile, pause, wait for torrential downpour to begin).

With less than an hour before departure, we reached Far Rockaway Beach and nervously awaited the free shuttle bus which, in our fantasies, would whisk us away straight to the gate. Alas. By the time we got to our terminal, we had only 15 minutes before boarding and departure. Cue the "Mission Impossible" theme music. We ran up the escalator, skidded around the corner to a nearly-deserted Iceland Airways Check-In counter, and breathlessly awaited the punishment to be handed down to us.

"You are checking in NOW?," the airline agent asked, flabbergasted.
"Yes, please?"
(clacking of the keys, frowning of the face, glancing of the eyes at these two wretched, sweaty women)
"You two are lucky. You are getting the last two seats."

Relief washed over us as we raced through security, through the boarding area, and onto the plane. We laughed maniacally and marveled at the fact that, in this day of hyper-security and uber-suspicion, we managed to get through the entire JFK terminal (entrance, security, and plane doors) in under 10 minutes. We found our seats at the back of the plane, slumped down with relief that the last several harrowing hours were behind us, and then settled back and idly wondered when they were going to serve us some water and give us our cashmere blankets that we could later steal. Craptastic airplane food, not nearly enough water, acrylic blankets, and five-hours of flying time later, we arrived in Reykjavik.

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