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Published: August 30th 2015
This was a trip that I never expected to make, a place that I would only see in movies and listen to the stories of my mates when they had ventured to this famous city. It was only by chance that another exchange teacher from Adelaide, who is working in Denver, asked me if I wanted to join her in New York then go on a 3 day tour up to Niagara Falls, Toronto and Thousand Islands on the Canadian, American border. As you may be aware from my previous blogs, money was not really encouraging me to attend this trip, but with the knowledge that my tax cheque was soon to be entered in my bank account I decided to to take the plunge and go on the trip. There was always something in the back of my mind about this trip, something felt like it would go wrong but none the less, I was heading to New York, the place where one of my best mates proposed to his lovely wife, where another mate had a cousin narrowly escape the tragic September 11 tragedy, the place where some of my favourite movie scenes had been shot; and I was
very excited about it.
I only had a day at home to finish off some things related to the 'investment' (as mentioned in a previous blog) I had made and been working on and recover from the 10 day trip in Vancouver and Alaska before my next big trip. I was in desperate need of a consistent diet, and a really good nights sleep in a familiar bed but it seemed that would have to wait until my return. I had mentioned that I feared something would go wrong. This wasn't a negative attitude, it was intuition, a feeling, a voice in your head that just kept nagging at you and I always feared it would be the flight into New York. Well to start with, this was just a silly thought in my mind as I got economy parking for the first time at the airport, had no dramas with getting my plan ticket and all looked good. It was the impulse thought of thinking I needed some US dollars on me that started the first of a couple interesting events. I placed my card into the travel X cash machine and went to take out
$80. The only thing that was taken was the money from account. No money appeared! I froze! I thought I was dreaming for a moment and that I must have left it in the machine, but no money came out. My flight was boarding in 5 minutes and I didn't know who to ask for assistance or if indeed money had been taken from my account. I quickly checked my back details and sure enough, $130 Australian dollars had just vanished from the slowly emptying funds I possessed. I saw there was a call number on the machine so I quickly took a photo of it and boarded my flight.
I may have taught English and even 'hinted' at writing a novel in my time, but it was rare for me to read so much of a book in one sitting. 'The Night Gardener' by Johnathan Auxier felt like words just absorbed into my mind and that the story was being played as a video you would watch on your couch at home. I have since finished it (as I didn't quite on the flight) and it is a good read if you like a suspense thriller.
The book helped to take my thoughts away from what I had just experienced with the ATM machine relax before landing in Toronto. I walked over to customs, went through border security check, had my passport stamped and lumbered up to the gate where I found that my flight on American United (American Eagle flight through that airline) had been delayed. I was a little annoyed as Abby, the exchange teacher who was already in New York was waiting for me to arrive. I went and bought a sandwich, bottle water and a cookie for the amazing valued price of $25 Canadian then was lucky to find a Travel X broker. I told her of my situation and she advised me to ring up the number I had photographed. After getting some money from her I rang up and explained the situation to the person on the phone and after tracking down my attempt explained I would be refunded in 20-25 business days. Another issue sorted! I walk down to the gate again to pandemonium. A flight to Chicago had been cancelled and people had been lined up for an hour, waiting to sort out their travel arrangements. It was
then I looked up at the screen and saw that another American Eagle flight had been cancelled. The flight numbers jumped around and switched into french a few times before the sudden horrified realisation hit me! It was my flight that had been cancelled.
I have gotten angry, at times quite unnecessarily over the top in my time over the simplest of things. Missing a punt on the golf course, dropping a plate, my computer switching off when I hadn't saved my work, (like what happened to me when I went to print off my concussion course certificate at work just the other day, but through all this, like the certificate, I stayed cool, calm and collected. After standing in the line that did not move for an hour, I was given a hot tip of how where to find someone who could help me with my flights. I quietly crept away and found another American Eagle booth where they were able to get me on a 6am flight the next morning. It was earliest I could arrive in New York so i took it. I asked about accommodation and if they were putting people up! Every
hotel within 5km of the airport was booked out. The only option may have been the Sheraton Hotel at $300+ a night. I had 12 hours to kill in the airport. Even a hotel 30km away would be minimum $200 Canadian including transport and I didn't have that kind of money to throw around. So after looking like spending the night on the cold floors of the Toronto airport, I did end up staying at the Sheraton . . . on the couch in their lobby along with a small family and a bloke who was on his computer.
After again going through customs and making it to the gate, I found yet again, that the flight was delayed but this one did finally take off. The plane itself was the strangest I had been on. I was sitting in a one seat per row section of the plane while the other side had 2 seats per row. The hostess was in her 40's walked around as if she was smoking a joint during flight, spoke as if she didn't have a care in the world and snarled when she had to get up and help anyone.
She even sat down after the first part of the safety check procedure and listened to the instructions just like a passenger would do. Well, after the issues with the airport, finding the NYC airporter at $16 to get into the city and spending an hour and a half on this bus, I finally made it to Penn station. Driving through New York traffic is like trying to weave a needle through an impassable piece of fabric. It is truly something you need to actually see to believe. The see of yellow taxi's is also no myth as nearly every second car was a taxi on the road.
It was about 11:30am in the morning when I finally got to the hotel and met Abby. I had not slept a wink, smelt like a dog had mistaken me for a tree to do its business on, but I was in New York for 1 day. And I wanted to make the most of it! Our first stop was the Empire States Building, where these sale/promo people hustled us in purchasing a $49 pass into the building which included a free viewing of their version of Flyover New
York. The movie was interesting and the small attempt at humour did fall flat on its face but it was a good way to get a quick snap shot of New York. The view from the top of the 86 floor was amazing. You couldn't help but think of famous movie scenes, such as 'Sleepless in Seattle' as you slowly walked around the view of buildings, rivers, and in the case of Central Park, gardens that stretched out as far as the eye could see. It was probably the only way I was going to see some well known New York highlights, such as the Statue of Liberty, Chrysler Building and the Brooklyn Bridge so it was great to get experience the views an get an idea just how big this city was.
As we walked around the streets towards Broadway and Time Square (which I didn't know was actually a major part of the Broadway area) you couldn't help that every street and avenue had a story waiting for you to explore. It was like getting to know the person you love, every moment your shared, the more you learned about her and the more you
fall in love with them. That was the impact New York was beginning to have on me. Time Square was as big, bright and crazy as I had imagined it. Television screens in every direction, huge advertisements for Broadway shows towering above you, attempting to seduce you with their advertising technique to come see the shows within the theatres nearby. Even the kissing screen had many people amused for a quite a great deal of time as they either waited to be the love couple to be selected or just get the photo of them on the big screen in Time Square. I also so this amazing place at night, and the lights, the colour, the atmosphere is just electric. I felt like I could have stood there all day and not got tied by the many distractions that attempted to get your full attention.
We walked passed Madison Square Gardens and caught a taxi to Ground Zero, the home of the greatest tragedy in modern times. I remember my brother from another mother Dil's, who I was living at the time barging into my room and waking me up to show me this moment in history
that you didn't realise at the time would be so significant. We stood there, staring at the 1980's square box that was in a small dining room kitchen area of the home I lived in for 21 years, wondering if this was indeed real. It could not possibly be happening!!! Then, what we thought was a replay of some new footage from the first plane, was infact the second plane hitting into the second tower. It was disbelief that filled your thoughts. How could this possibly happen. Waking up the next morning to see that, one by one, the buildings had collapsed just sent a shiver down your spine. The footage of people running and avoiding the debris that crashed down like water in a waterfall you thought that there was a special on the making of a movie. But this was real!!!! My mate Jacko had seen this place, when it was nothing more than a rubble that looked more like a 3km squared rubbish dump, that covered the shattered dreams, the heart wrenching agony, and the spirits of those who will never leave this now famous block in New York. Looking around at the buildings nearby, you noticed
that nearly up to two blocks away were all brand new, just giving you and idea of how far the rubble had crashed its way after the World Trade Centre buildings could no longer stand strong against the evil that had attacked them. Walking towards the square fountains, shaped exactly the same width and length and I believe in the very position where the two once tallest buildings in the world once stood, you couldn't help but feel the emotion, the devastation that once conquered the ground you were standing on. I could only imagine what it was like and even then, my dreams would not have been a twentieth of what it was actually like. Walking around the fountains, seeing the names of those who lost their lives and even seeing a rose placed in the whole letters of a name by a loved one, you can't help but feel emotionally impacted. We were unfortunate not to be able to visit the museum but peering into the windows and seeing some of the foundations that once held up the buildings where the never ending water features stood, you couldn't hold back a tear that threatened to trickle out from
From the emotional draining experience of Ground Zero to the place where a suit was the dress code for most workers on Wall St. To be honest the New York exchange is a building, but your curiosity couldn't help but imagine how hectic and frantic it was where some of the biggest financial decisions in the world were made. Then a smell of a authentic Italian pizza seduced us into purchasing lunch before going to find 'the Golden Bull' statue. I had never heard of it, infact I thought it was a 'load of bull' but Abby googled and walked the streets and eventually we found it. So many tourists were standing there trying to get their photo with this big statue which, anywhere else in the world probably would have just been admired from a far. You could tell by the expression on the bull's face he wasn't happy about all this, particularly since the highlight for most people was to get a photo touching its testicles!!! This crazy cost us missing the last ferry to go see Ellis Island and also the most famous statue in the world, the Statue of Liberty. Abby
and I were able to see it in the distance and you couldn't help but have your thoughts twisted between why it was such a big tourist attraction and yet the message it stood for was so powerful and 'liberating'. We then got a taxi back to the hotel and drove past the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridge and past Macy's shopping centre, the biggest in New York and famous around the world. It was then a refeshing shower, that washed away the the staleness of the last day and a half refreshed me for a quick night tour of Time Square. I also had to go to a Hooters, as this was just something you had to do while in America. The food was actually pretty good, well the cheese sticks and the wings that I had were anyway. I must say though, that as I was getting my photo taken with the Hooters girls that they appeared quite young and how unnatural it was for them to have such, well you . . . you know, major attractions. The waitresses were alot younger than I thought they would be but still the experience had been lived and another
story had been edged into my life experiences.
The next morning was an early wake up call, so I had gone to be quite early that night to try and get some sleep. Abby and I were dropped off by a taxi (which pretty much appeared the moment we stepped out of our hotel - Ah New York) in China Town to begin our three day tour. There was a reason why we met in China Town, as the company that run it must have had some kind of Chinese link. Plus all but 6 passengers on this full bus were of Asian background. Our guide was a young fella, who didn't quite start off as the most friendly bloke you have seen. "You are on my bus" he said. I was sure he didn't own it, but the way he said it was aggressive and threatening. Since I couldn't remember his name, and the fact he repeated the phrase "my bus" about 30 times a day, I had unofficially renamed him 'My Bus' and that is how Abby and I would refer to him when he came up in conversation. He continued on to tell us
about the tip. "You will pay 8 dollar a day! That is $24 for me and the bus driver!" Abby and I looked at each other and though 'Is this guy serious?' I had been on Contiki trips for 21 days and they had only recommended $2-3 per day for tour guide and bus driver. Eight bucks? We later found out that he had meant $24 per person and that amount gets divided up but at the time it was quite an alarming shock.
On our way to Niagara Falls we stopped at a place called Watkins Glen where there was a pretty amazing gorge that you could walk through. I had seen photos of this in the advertisement for the tour and was actually looking forward to it. Paying $10 to do a down hill 40 minute walk when I had hiked some amazing treks in the last month and a half didn't feel quite right. We later found out that we could have done the same thing for free as the bus parked at the end of the walk but this was not told to us as If people pay, the guide and the business
get some of the cut!!! I guess that's good business! Ethical, I'm not so sure. This gorge was like New York, the more you walked along the trails, the more it impressed you with its rock formations, the rushing waters, the old cave you walked through, and the moss that added to the scenery was the perfect decoration to a nice, peaceful relaxing walk. The highlight of this walk though came through the interaction of a Australian, who yelled out a jovial slagging comment about my Richmond Tiger jumper I was wearing with a cheeky smile on his face. We ended up having a great little chat to him and found out that he was Tad Joniec, who played for Footscray under the great Teddy (EJ) Whitten from 1969 to 71. He went on to tell us about a few footy stories that were classic Teddy Whitten and how he was one of the first to come over to join the NFL as a punter and played for the reigning Super Bowl Champions the New England Patriots in an area that they were not quite as successful. The more he talked, the more he reminded me of my mate Nick's
dad, Henrick! His mannerisms, his friendly nature, and just an awesome guy to be around I was actually starting to wonder if I had found Henrick's long lost brother. When he mentioned he had a Polish background, it became even spookier as Henrick's background was also Polish! He left us by singing some weird song with a few Australian slang's in it but his positive, bubbly attitude had suddenly revitilised my tired, sleep deprived body for the remainder of the journey ahead.
Niagara Falls was not what I had expected it to be! I did not expect this well known fascinating natural creation was surrounded by a 'mini Vegas' like city. As we drove in on the bus at night, we saw sky towers, like in Calgary and Toronto, casino signs, bright lights, a tourist area full of all kinds of attractions and the beautifully lit up falls that Abby and I had been very much looking forward to seeing. We had ensured we had all our gear into our hotel room before strolling down to the tower to get a Starbucks coffee, then onto this amazing tourist trap full of museums, a Ferris Wheel, mini golf,
all kinds of food places, including a fudge place. Viewing the amazing falls at night was pretty cool. The sound of the continuous water crashing into the rocky base of the American falls and seeing the spray drift into the air of the Canadian falls in amongst the bright lights that decorated it was quite relaxing and pretty cool to see. We even saw a skunk as crossing the road on our way to the hotel which was also pretty cool. Seeing it the bright blue sky of a sunny day was even better. There are many different tourist atctivities you can do to get up close and personal with this great place. The Cave of the Winds on the American side along with the Maid of Mist, while on the Canadian side you have the Hornblower (which is what Abby and I went on) Journey Behind the Falls which, if you had time would have been awesome to experience. We only had enough time to enjoy the Hornblower and walk along the 'esplanade' if you like that gives you the beautiful Canadian side view of the falls.
The Hornblower cruise was pretty awesome. Wearing our fashionable
red ponchos and bracing the windy conditions on the water was all worth it. The spray of the water hit you like the gentle mist from a spray bottle on a hot day, and had just the same soothing, relaxing sensation. The sound roared through your ears like a steady beating drum and the white spray that crashed down to the depths below, particularly at Horseshoe Falls was just dazzled the iris of our eyes. The ride was short but just to get up close and personal with these amazing creations of Mother Nature was just something special. The power of the water was also quite impressive and for me, this experience had made the trip all worth while just by itself.
We didn't quite have enough time to get to the Journey Behind the Falls and also to view the falls from the tower but this meant I would quite happily go again to experience all the experiences we missed. The 'esplanade' is beautifully supported by gardens along the way, along with a number of great look out spots to get every angle of the falls that you can. We also walked through the tourist theme
park if you like, where they had the Guinness Book of record Museum, Ripley's Believe it or Not, Frankenstein's castle and many other attractions which to enjoy all of them, you may need a day in itself. After a nice lunch at a restaurant called 'Kelseys' and purchasing some fudge and a delicious nut crumbed Toffee Apple, we ventured back to the bus that was all set to take us to Toronto.
The question everyone likes to debate is which side is better for viewing, the Canadian side or the American Side. The Canadian side is definitely much better for viewing but I have to say, although the amazing curved shape of the Horseshoe Falls is quite fascinating, I much preferred the American Falls as they had something about them that just seemed to capture my attention. I would say though that up close, Horseshoe Falls was definitely more impressive to observe. The force that it crashes into the water and sends that amazing cloud of watery mist into the air is just awesome. Bridal Veil Falls was something that can easily be excused for being connected to the American Falls and sadly enough, would be an
impressive spectacle if it was all on its own. I would call it the forgotten falls but definitely one to keep and eye on.
Toronto was only a short stay, and for me to give it justice on only spending 3 hours there would be completely unfair. The iconic Toronto tower, standing 350 metres in the air is definitely and impressive sight but Abby and I had chosen not to spend the $36 to check it out. During our time though we walked along the harbour, where a buzz of activity including zip lines were being run, a peace or love message wall was being created, a comedy performance was going on and we also ensured that Abby had her first Beaver Tail, which she agreed satisfied the taste bugs and raised the cholesterol. We walked the streets past Roger's Arena, which if we had known how close we were to the Blue Jays baseball home ground, and that they were playing, we may have snuck in for an innings. However, by the time we got there, all we were greeted with was the rush of Blue Jay's fans leaving the arena after a satisfying 4-2 win
over the Athletics. The walk through town was quite good, even found an Adelaide and Richmond Street which always reminds me of home. I can't say that Toronto won me over, but like I said, I was only there for a day and from doing some research, there are a number of little secrets to explore if you spend more than a day or two there.
The Thousand Islands is exactly what it sounds like. A number of tiny little islands situated within a large river near or on the Canada/America border. Most of these islands have cute little houses on them, owned by extremely wealthy people as a place they could retreat to in the summer. The cruise through the islands was actually pretty cool. Some of the house designs were eye catching and clever, while some were quite basic. We even passed a house right on the border, where the people had made a bridge to cross to a separate small island near their house. The commentator joked that the man there said that when he has a disagreement with his wife, to cool down his escapes the country to gain his thoughts. The Thousand
Islands also is home to Boldt Castle, which looks like something you expect a Bond Film to be shot at. It had beautiful grounds and a traditional structure of what you expect a castle to look at. This is a relaxing cruise with amazing views of the little islands but I wouldn't recommend having the breakfast on the cruise boat. Not sure it agreed with my already confused and irritated stomach from the peculiar take away diet it had experienced over the last month.
I was lucky enough to have one last night and morning in New York where we made sure we walked around more the Manhattan side rather than Midtown section. We saw the Rockerfeller building where we stopped and took photos of the Tonight Live signs. We nearly paid the $30 to go toe the 65 level of the building for the amazing night view and probably if I had my time again i would have but I wanted to get up really early to try and walk Central Park and Abby had thought she may be able to squeeze it in as she had a a good half day in the next day.
We walked past the place where the big Christmas Tree is hoisted up. It was now a rather fancy outdoor restaurant with all the trees in the area lit up by lights, walked past the Waldorf Astoria and even found the 'Soup Nazi' shop from Seinfeld before walking in a small part of Central Park. It was quite cool seeing people hoping on a horse and carriage ride for $20 for $20 minutes and $50 for an hour by memory. I can see how this was indeed a romantic place to be and why my mate Nick had decided this would be the place he would ask his wife to marry him.
The next morning I spent a good 2 hours walking all of Central Park. I tried my best to soak up all its history, its famous land marks, its smells, its beauty and wished that I didn't have to rush to back to the hotel to leave for the airport. I was amazed at how many runners and walkers were up so early enjoying the wonders of this amazing park, and the fact that there was a bike race going through the rather large area
that goes at least 50 blocks long. To walk along the Bow Bridge, past the Jacqueline Kennedy Lake, the famous walk way, the Conservatory Garden, the castle and Swedish Cottage, even a beach volleyball court where a couple of ladies were having a evenly contested match was just amazing. Just like New York, the more you explored, the more you found another beautiful component to it that just made you fall more in love with it. I had decided that I would very much come back to New York, but would love to see it in winter and then again in Spring so you could see a Nicks game in Madison Square Gardens, and baseball game at Yankee Stadium, see the ball drop in Time Square, see a Broadway show, shop in the big toy shop and Macy's of course. Even a horse and carriage ride with someone special would just be memories you hope never fade from your mind. My last big attraction that I saw before I went out for a quick farewell breakfast with Abby (who would then spend the day on the hop on hop off buses -$60 got you to different parts of Brooklyn, New
York and the Bronx) was the big world map out the front of Trump International Hotel, then it was time to just head back to the airport and get back to Calgary where I could spend the last few days of holidays relaxing. So I thought!!!!!!!!!!
I wanted to try and get the 10:30am or at least the 11am NYC airporter shuttle to JFK airport to ensure I was there in time for my flight. The 10:30am bus soon disappeared as that was the time I had said good bye to Abby in the lobby of the hotel and thanked her for allowing me to tag along on her adventure. We had got along really well and it was great to have spent the last month traveling with mum and sis and Abbey for this small section rather than myself. If I had known the walk was going to be as eventful as it became I would have left alot earlier. Firstly, two American blokes, who I didn't know at the time were selling something yelled out 'Australian' at the top of their voices. Instantly hearing my countries name made me turn with great excitement. Before I
knew it I was in conversation with two wannabe wrappers who had somehow conned me out of $10 to buy their CD's. Now these guys could have been the next latest rage but they had also impacted on my ability to get through Time Square to get to 33rd street where I had to catch the bus. A few minutes later, my flip flops broke, so I had to quickly get my shoes out of my bag, put them on and put my flip flops, and the CD's, in the bin. I then searched hi and low for the airporter signs but it was so poorly signed in one of the busiest places in the world, Saturday morning New York, that I could not find it. After walking around for ten minutes, I finally asked a security guard where it was and he told me the corner I had been circling for the last little bit. I went to where he told me to go and still no sign of the sign or the bus. I decide to cross every corner of 7th and 33rd until I hope to find it. As I cross the road, what should I see
turn from 33rd onto 7th was the NYC Airporter bus. The security guard had told me the wrong corner and now I had to wait for the 11:30am bus, as they came every half hour. I paid my $16 dollars and waited in the hot sun for the bus to arrive. Moments later, a man walking around with a suitcase came up to me and begged me for some money to go purchase a train ticket. he was precise with the price, $6.95 he asked for, or at least $2 to contribute to it. He was normally dressed and was with a strange thin looking woman who wore a grey singlet and had a nose ring, died red hair and tattoos on her left arm. At first i told him I didn't have any change to spare, which was true, I had a $10 note I had intended to use with the other $10 note I donated moments ago to pay for my airporter ticket. I made the fatal mistake of turning to see his expression. The man looked truly emotional, desperate, and as if his last chance to had just disappeared. I turned to him and said well maybe
I might have something. I looked in my wallet and only found Canadian change. I told him that was all I had. The man was eyeing off a different prize though, the $10 note that sat in my wallet. Stupidly I had opened it in a place where he could see into it. The man asked about the $10 note which I immediately said I can't spare that. It was true, I couldn't afford to just be giving away money. I wasn't Bill Gates! I don't know what cam over me, whether I was conned or whether it was the emotion I saw in the man's eyes before I re-established the conversation but I gave him the $10 note and told him to be on his way. I quickly looked up at the sky to the man up stairs and said Karma better come back to me in some way.
Finally I was on the bus, and thought that an hour would still be enough time to get to their airport to catch a 3pm flight. It was 1pm and we hadn't even left down town New York. The traffic was atrocious. I was now starting to
panic! Would I make my flight in time? How can I make my connecting flight to Toronto? Will I have to find accommodation for the night? I tried to check in on line using the free Wi-Fi on the bus but even that didn't work. I got to the airport about 1:40am, quickly asked an assistant to help me get my boarding pass as lined up through security and some how made it to the gate by 2:10, ten minutes before boarding time. I sat down and breathed a sigh of relief. Home couldn't come quick enough!
Suddenly a polite but officiant voice spoke over the loud speak: "Flight Number (whatever) from New York to Toronto has been cancelled due to a mechanical problem." I just smiled and shook my head as i calmly joined the rush of people that lined up at the desk to organise alternative arrangements. Again, I was surprised how calm I was in this situation, but I was like a duck on the pond. The nervous energy was consuming me from the inside to a point where an involuntary shake of my limbs was on the brink of occurring. As I waited,
I found out that the people ahead of me and behind me all wanted the same connecting flight with their final destination being Calgary. A family was on the phone, while keeping their kids in line to be served to try and organise flights. I thought ;knowing my luck, the people in front of me will book the last flights to Calgary for the day and I'll have to wait until tomorrow. There was also a European woman and her husband verbally abusing the flight staff at the desk, blaming them for missing their flight, giving them wrong directions for a redirected flight and demanding to see the manager. The flight attendant hadn't given them wrong directions, but this woman was so worked up she had forgotten to listen to what had been arranged. Life couldn't have been more exciting!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It was then I remembered that I had seen a direct flight from New York to Calgary when I was booking flights. I had only picked the connecting lights because they were cheaper. I now know why they were. I preyed and hoped that there was a spot on the West Jet flight going direct to Calgary.
The perspiration built up all around my body. The butterflies trapped in my stomach fluttered around desperate to be released along with the nervous, fidgety energy I felt as I stood in line. Well, the good news was that yes I did get on that direct flight back to Calgary along with everyone else in line. This flight was not only direct, it got in at the same time or even earlier than the flights I had booked. It was then I looked up at the man up stairs and smiled. A positive karma had come my way! To top things off, my tax cheque had been deposited into my account and for the first time in a long time, I went to bed that night feeling, safe, secure and relieved that my financial issues had momentarily been fixed.
My final word of advice: DO NOT FLY AMERICAN AIRLINES, particularly AMERICAN EAGLE. 2 Flights, 2 cancellations!
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