4:29am: Waiting for my alarm to ring. Already packed, quickly I get dressed, make coffee, and head for the door. My roommate, Zach, is riding shotgun, and Peaches dutifully comes along too. Hop out at the airport, give Peaches a kiss and hand my keys over to Zack. I’m on my way.
6:30am: My direct flight is delayed, now boarding at 7:30 instead of 6:45. No problem – I just ran into my friend Kris, a very fine specimen of a man, who works at Nike. We catch up on the latest greatest, and share our travel plans (he’s going to explore in the Middle East). There was even time to show him some of Audreality.
7:30am: Board. But something is wrong. Wait a half-hour for the engineers to fix it… Then, they tell us it will be 9:30 before they have answers, and kindly suggest we de-board. They say the same thing a few moments later, this time with more dreadful assurance: the flight is cancelled. Luckily I’m in the front row – off without further delay.
1pm: Run into a second Portland friend, named Tyler, this time in the SLC airport. He was on the other plane as well (headed to Memphis for work); his connecting flight is next to mine.
1:30: Board flight to New York. By me (again in the front row), sits a woman named Deanne. She is pretty, petite and blonde, with a stack of papers in one hand and some white wine in the other. I also have a glass. Well, a few. This flight is nearly four hours long, so we chat intermittently while she reviews her document, and for the rest of the flight too. Told her about Miss Travel. She’s impressed that I’m ballsy enough to fly cross-country to meet a stranger, yet she seems sure it’s going to be a great time.
8:45pm (East Coast Time): Landed in JFK. The car service takes me directly to Becky Jean’s apartment in lower Manhattan, where I meet a few of her model roommates. Cool pad.
11pm: Caught a cab with Becky Jean to Hudson Hotel, where we meet my Miss Travel host. He’s about 15 years older than me, a diplomat for the US State Department. He’s just gotten in from a few months in Pakistan, where – you can imagine – it’s not easy to meet ladies. Work on breaking the ice, with drinks at the hotel bar. I have a wee bit of a headache setting in.
Midnight: It’s Veteran’s Day, most of the businesses are closed. We find a place nearby to have dinner, lovely. It’s difficult to eat (and impossible to drink), because my headache is now splitting. When it gets to the point where it’s so unbearable that there are tears in my eyes, we decide to call it a night. Becky Jean gets a cab home, and I stay with my new friend at the hotel. On our way to the room, the yellow-green ambiance lighting (which seemed like a neat touch earlier), is agonizing to look at. I’ve never had a headache like this before…
4am: Impossible to sleep – I’m laying in bed in this tiny room, just groaning in pain, crying a little. Finally, I get nauseous and vomit a few times, which makes me feel a million times better. By 4:30 or 5am, I’m asleep.
9:15am: Working on logistics for the day, in bed. My friend and I take turns showering and get ready.
12:30pm: Walk down to the Jon Stewart studio to get in line for tickets. Stand in line from about 1pm-2:30. Meanwhile, Becky Jean joins us. We briefly stop at the hotel, where I transition into my dress for the evening, and we get a few drinks at the bar. Back in line at the studio by 4:30, for seating.
6pm: The audience has just been warmed up by an opening act, a comedian named Paul Mecurio, who is rude, crude and hilarious. Jon Stewart arrives, welcomed by roaring applause. He takes a few questions from the crowd. Raising my hand, he calls on me.
“I’m visiting from Portland, Oregon,” I say, “So what do you suggest we do – besides this of course – to have the most authentic New York experience?”
Stewart replies, “Go piss in the subway. Also, you can roll-a-drunk. And go to Central Park to buy some weed that’s laced with kerosene, so you can wander around all night feeling like you’re about to die.”
6:45pm: The show is over, we grab a cab to Cipriani’s (a gorgeous building, with tall ceilings, enormous pillars, and a lobby, full of well-dressed attendees for the event: The 6th Annual Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America Heroes Gala. With Brian Williams as Master of Ceremonies, we hear from a handful of deeply moving speakers, including the woman who created Sesame Street (!!!), and a man, Cpl. Arron Mankin who tells his heart-wrenching story of losing much of his face in the war. We have an amazing steak dinner and hit one more bar (a hurricane relief party, hosted by one of Becky Jean’s friends) before heading back to the hotel for the night.