2006 Houston All-Star Weekend
There And Back Again
|A first-hand journal of the misadventures of Dream League|
EPISODE II: Houston, We Have Lift-Off for Dream League
By Bimbo Haggins, Dream League Journeyman
Chapter One - All-Star tips for travelers learned on the go
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Note to you: if you want to skip onto the All-Star festivities, read the next chapter, although there was at least one "celebrity" on our flight...
BART website has no good info on parking near SFO, the bitch at the Millbrae station window doesn't add any value either. Here's free advice that almost made our intrepid Commish, his wife and baby daughter, and yours truly the Dream League Journeyman miss our flight, if not for budgeting the standard 3-hour lead time for flights with Commish's 15-month baby girl. If you are leaving no earlier than Thursday from SFO, park at Millbrae BART and take the $3.00 roundtrip to SFO, which is only 7 minutes away. You may or may not get a $25 ticket for parking on a Thursday instead of free Fri/Sat/Sun, but even if you do, it's probably worth it relative to other parking options.
Houston passengers all looked like they were either from Houston (southwest accents) or going exclusively for the All-Star game (6'6" Chinese guy wearing some kind of team sweats and brothas with baseball caps, corn rows and bling bling -- hey, I'm not making this up, I call it like it is; it was not I who dubbed it the Black Superbowl).
He dubbed it, not I.
Guess what, turns out the 6'6" Chinese guy is actually a 15-year-old Jr. NBA champion. Damn, shoulda got a picture taken with him. If this kid is only fifteen, who knows if he still has a growth spurt left in him?
Flight would have been boring if not for Commish's baby daughter, with all the funny stuff she does. He actually bought a $100 battery pack on eBay just in case he had to entertain her with DVDs on the laptop -- never happened. Btw, shame on United for the barely fulfilling $5 snack packs. Talk about highway robbery.
Note to self: bring a couple bags of snacks next time.
Turns out the jibber jabber going on in the seat in front of Commish was ESPN journalist Ric Bucher, who is from the Bay Area, talking to some brotha. Commish said he recognized the voice from random ESPN telecasts. Mentioned that he once got a reply email from Bucher after writing to commend Bucher's article about the US Olympic basketball team needing to be a year-round team dedicated to the cause. In Commish's email, he explained his 12-year experience with quick-hit tournaments and his Asian All-Star teams yielding the same results. Much to Commish's surprise, Bucher later replied saying he had heard about our Asian leagues.
When we de-planed, sure enough there Bucher was. Commish didn't get a chance for a conversation except for, "Hey you're Ric Bucher, right? Remember your Team USA article? I was the one who emailed you about the Asian all-star teams," to which Bucher looked at Commish with a puzzled face, then seemed to remember (maybe), then said something like, "Oh yeah."
Then Bucher headed off the plane like Jerry Rice used to run the slant while unfortunately for Commish, an old lady in front of him gave a chop-block with her Samsonite, preventing him from making at least a meaningful introduction to backup the worst journalist ice-breaker ever witnessed (sorry, Commish!). He didn't even have time to use cute baby daughter as bait -- you have to admit, she is quite charming! Well, at least Commish might stand out in Bucher's brain as the Asian email guy who left Bucher puzzled while leaving the aircraft.
Note to self: never try to start a conversation while de-planing again. If available, always have baby in hand so people either get entranced by her cuteness and offer compliments, or get out of your way so as to de-plane in a friggin' reasonable amount of time -- guess they can't hire a six-figure aerospace engineer to figure that one out, huh? Ya gotta love coach class!
Will he remember the Asian email guy?
Upon baggage claim...Smarte Cartes are a must-have. Three bucks not bad, plus the machines take credit card, so it's easy when reporting it as a travel expense (hey Commish, you are letting me expense this, right?). Bad thing about Houston airport: there's only one shuttle to all rental cars and it gets pretty crowded too. That means the bus driver doesn't work for Hertz. That means he has no real incentive to stand out. That means he's not the best at helping weary travelers out, especially with poor Commish and his 50-pound luggage full of baby stuff and carseat to boot. I don't think Commish tipped the guy.
Deal of the day according to Commish: Hertz Club One Gold for free for American Express cardholders. Not only that, book thru Amex's website and the prices are precipitously lower. Charge it to Amex and get another 5% off. We skipped the line and, boy, was there ever one. Can you imagine what a zoo it might have been at other non-express car rental places like (ugh) Thrifty? Hertz and American Express, what a pleasant combination. Way to go, Commish!
We also got a DVD player in our minivan unexpectedly. Turned out to be the best thing since sliced bread because it calmed baby down while on the road. Commish said lugging the big Marathon carseat was totally worth it, despite its bus-driver-help-repellent bulkiness.
By the time Commish drove out of Bush Intercontinental Airport, we were dead tired. It was about 6pm local time and not much else to do but check in and get some grub.
Note to self: anything with a franchise-like name such as Joe's Crab Shack is going to have bad service and so-so food. How come we keep falling for that? Damn marketing geniuses working for the restaurant franchisors. My bad on that pick, Commish!