Thursday, April 2, 2009


I was hoping I’d start hallucinating, but no such luck. Randy Gardner started hallucinating after 4 days when he set the record in 1965 for 11 days without sleep. I was going on 48 hours... I kept fantasizing about my cozy king size bed that awaited me at the Beijing Hilton, but it didn’t make the bench at O’Hare feel any better. It wasn’t quite as comfortable as my temperpedic back home, and neither were the coach seats on the 747... By the time we touched down, I was stiff, my back was sore, and my journey was just beginning...

One small step for man, one giant step for me, as I set foot in the terminal and began the long march to baggage claim. A wave of relief rushed over me when I saw that all of the signs with Chinese characters were subtitled in English, assuring I would find my way. I only hoped my baggage would be as fortunate.

Down the escalator to the baggage carousels, I saw a number of Chinese men holding signs with names... mine wasn’t on any of them. Just then a man emerges from the crowd, calls my name, and tells me to collect my luggage and he will arrange my transfer. Whew!

I eye the carousel like a hawk, but after 15 minutes of nothing a rumor starts to circulate that United has “misplaced” the luggage of 40 passengers, and I get the sinking feeling that this is going to be a very, very long trip.

Ever the optimist I grab a cart for my luggage, and I notice something peculiar... the cart is free. Carts are $3 back in the states... maybe there is something to communism after all. Just as I’m about to lose all hope, my bag emerges from the depths of luggage hell. I am now mere moments away from my fantasy... a comfy hotel bed, and nothing is going to get in between me and my fantasy... well, almost nothing...

“Miniskirts and Maxi Fun!” says the advertisement’s ladies night in the posh Hilton bar, and it is packed with just that. Asian eye candy abounds. I’ve traveled 8000 miles and gone 2 days without sleep. There is no way I can party now, especially since I have to be up at 6am. Okay, maybe I’ll just have one drink...

Monday, March 23, 2009


The world was spinning so fast, I was certain I’d fall off. I had been incessantly slaving away at fulfilling print orders, and shooting photography sessions that I had left scarce little time for myself. I felt cold as the blood rushed from my head, and my stomach began to feel uneasy... My flight was departing in less than 6 hours, and I hadn’t even begun to pack. I was having a full fledged panic attack.

My favorite part of the panic attack is when you realize that your are having one, and such realization causes you to panic even further about how much more you are likely to panic in the near future, thus, exponentially increasing the amount of total panic, until you become a crazed lunatic. It was now midnight, and my cab would arrive at 3am to take me to the airport to embark on a 3 week journey across China, and I had passed the crazed lunatic stage long ago.

It’s not so much that I’m going to a communist country that freaks me out, even though they don’t necessarily have the best track record with human rights. It’s not that I don’t speak even the most basic of Chinese phrases, and being lost in China unable to communicate would certainly be equivalent to death. It’s not that I hear horror stories about the pollution, and the poison in the dog food... No, it’s none of those things. What disturbs me the most? ...Facebook.

I won’t be able to log on for almost a month! L5, S1 is the culprit. That is the location of my inter-vertebral disc that is pinching a nerve in my leg, and causing all kinds of nastyness. I can’t lift much over 20lbs without aggrivating it. Sitting for any more that 30 minutes gets excruciatingly painful. The prospect of 36 hours of travel, lugging baggage halfway across the globe is not very appealing, and it’s forcing me to make choices. If I want to still be able to walk by the end of my trip, I will have to pack light. I can’t carry my laptop, and my camera gear, and my suitcase without risking damage, so something has got to stay behind. This will be the first time I am without my laptop since the dawn of the modern computer era.

Okay, in all honesty, I can deal without Facebook and Myspace, but being without a computer poses a logistical problem for digital photography. I will have no way to view, archive, or backup my footage. THAT freaks me out.

I pull myself together and focus on the essentials. I throw a weeks worth of clothes in a bag, take a couple lenses, my passport, and I’m off. I don’t even have room for a second camera body, so if this one breaks, or the shutter goes out, I’m done for. Oh, well, there is only one shot that I absolutely must have from China anyway, and I keep my mind focused on that. If I can get that shot, it will make the whole trip worth while. I can see it in my head... it’s gonna be cool, but I’ll have to wait until my very last day in China to get it.

By the time 6am rolls around I’m exhausted, having gone the entire night without sleep. No problem... I’ll sleep on the plane and wake up in Beijing, good as new. Only, my first stop isn’t in Beijing... it’s Chicago, and my connecting flight has “maintenance” issues. That is United’s way of of holding a flight for an extra 8 hours until it fills up, so they don’t send a half empty plane across the Pacific. Saves them jet fuel, but leaves me wondering if my guide will still be waiting to greet me when I arrive in Beijing almost a half day late...