As I’ve done for as long as I can remember, but not that long in the scheme of things, I’ll post a year-older photo. Truth be told, I’m not 40 yet in this pic taken at the bar at the top of the “seven star” Burj al Arab where the cheapest drink is $25 more or less (at least they had the decency to use camel milk in my colada to exoticize it) but I did not take any photos of myself on July 25 (or most other days because that’s not my thing) my real birthday, a strange nearly homeless day.
Our flight from Dubai to Hong Kong wasn’t until 3:20am on that Wednesday, which was actually July 26, which my brain has trouble parsing even though it’s rudimentary. So, I didn’t pay for a hotel that night, therefore we had no place to base ourselves (or shower or change clothes, an issue when it’s 5 million degrees outside) from noon checkout until late, late that evening. There were a lot of weirdly timed flights and I completely screwed up two nights in Bangkok because I’ve become careless with age and also don’t get the concept of 12am being the start of a new date. We arrived in Thailand after midnight on what I would still consider Monday night, July 30, but obviously was now Tuesday, July 31. I had booked a room for July 31 but that meant 3pm the next day, duh, so I had to overpay for an extra night on the spot. Also, our flight from Bangkok back to NYC was Sunday, August 5 so I booked that night and didn’t realize till the day before that the flight was 2:40am, meaning Saturday night. We didn’t really need a hotel that evening, but I just kept it because it was crazy cheap compared to the rooms in other cities we’d been to and it was almost worth having the room to take a shower and get fresh clothes before the 24 hour journey back and wrap up all the last-day packing and loose ends.
I would be dismayed at my growing jowliness (not, jolliness, autocorrect) but after recently re-seeing a slew of teens and twenties photos where I was a good bit thinner than I am now, I was shocked at how pudgy my face was. I never knew I had a fat face. Of all the body dramas I could be concerned about, my face has always been a non-issue. I like my face. There will be nothing but sag in my future and I’ll just deal. Maybe I won’t talk about The Middle-Ages anymore because 40 isn’t much of anything to spaz about in reality (except when it is). Maybe I won’t bring up age at all until I’m on the verge of 50. And if I’m still doing this (being an elderly live-journaler) that will be weird but probably ok.
I was the recipient of my first manicure in a mall in Thailand. It was also my first manicure in 40 years. They’re super cheap in NYC (I think around the same price that I paid for this, 280 baht=$8.89) so I would consider getting one again. It’s not been about the expense, anyway., but the awkwardness of someone performing the service. I can’t speak Thai, and the young woman couldn’t speak English so it was all fine to be silent (though not in silence—the coworkers were watching some apparently hysterical show on a TV hidden beneath the front counter and kept shrieking and laughing so wildly I started wondering if they were ok).
Speaking of services, I feel like I’m on the verge of becoming the type of person who outsources tasks. Not housecleaning or dropping my laundry off, commonplace stuff, but things I don’t have the time or patience for that I would’ve made fun of paying someone else to do a decade ago like when I first heard about businesses converting cd collections to mp3s. No, I have a bunch of old zines that I started scanning the last time I worked part time (2007) that I would love to finish PDF-ing and I’ve been prepping to migrate this site from Typepad to WordPress, but I didn’t realize how much technical know-how I needed and on top of that it appears there’s going to be a shitload of manual photo downloading, tweaking thousands of links and who knows what else. Hours and hours of work. The latter task is a priority, but not one that I can deal with right now. Would I pay hundreds of dollars to make it someone else’s problem? Maybe? Probably not.
Another first: towel animals. This melted, one-eyed beast greeted us when we first arrived at the Dar al Masayf in Dubai.
They became progressively better formed as the days went on, though I’m not sure what the floppy-earred one is meant to be. Instead of using them, we started putting them together on the couch, hoping to further grow the fuzzy family, which I’m certain freaked out the always-watching staff. Resorts are not for anti-social types who don’t make use of butlers, concierges, golf cart rides for 3-minute walks (actually, we did start taking up these offers because of the ridiculous heat) or spas, and don’t like having every move scrutinized. The butler (not in the British, suit and white gloves sense—most are Indian and are bare-handed) upon check-out said something to the effect of, “My colleagues and I were worried about you” because we weren’t socializing with others or asking questions or having reservations made, I don’t know. I do know that if I ever go back to Dubai, which I would, I would not go during summer or Ramadan and stay in a hands-off high-rise hotel.
In Bangkok, the animal (one-time only, not daily) was more minimal and yet more clear in species.
I never got a birthday cake like you see in tripadvisor reviews, but whatever, and like I said I wasn’t actually checked into a hotel on July 25. The unexplained, amazing business class upgrade (twice!) more than made up for it. I've never had a 7 hour and 45 minute (Dubai to Hong Kong) flight go so quickly or have disembarked feeling so non-beat-up. And you also get to fast-track through immigration instead of waiting in the giant passport lines with the hoi polloi.
For example, even though I'm makeup-less and bedraggled (and fully 40) here after a day-long journey involving taxis, subway, plane, ferry and bus, I would've been in much worse shape if I hadn't kicked back on that swanky flight. And to top it off, the first slot machine I played in our hotel's casino in Macau awarded the equivalent of $140.
There was so much food–and warm nuts with no horrible peanuts!–and champagne and wine that I started getting a stomachache but we ordered a cheese plate for dessert anyway, just because we could. And also because I'm a food hoarder, I stuck the foil-wrapped camembert in my purse, which managed to get smashed an oozed into every crevice of my camera and Kindle.
And lay-flat beds? Come on. Crazy leg room? Bulgari toiletries in gendered dop kits?
The only disappointment, if you can even call it that, was that the standalone bar where you can nibble hors d'oeuvres and drink "hand-crafted cocktails" that I've been obsessed with (I swear I blogged about it but only see evidence of Emirates mentions in relation to the music in their commercials and award-winning food) that's only on the new double-decker A380s, was not in use on the short two-hour Hong Kong to Bangkok leg (and wasn't the right model plane on the longer flight). I would've loved it too because instead of the multi-culti models featured in the promotional material, our business class companions, clearly also upgraded, were mostly Chinese families/old ladies who couldn't stop taking photos of everything and getting flight attendants to snap their pics in the massive seats that felt like they belonged in a spaceship control center.
The scary thing is you get used to the swanky treatment so quickly (or maybe I'm just discovering this dangerous, materialistic side to my personality) that when we had to fly economy back to NYC we went from sort of sad to bitter to near anger in record time (I still don't know Emirates was so fast and loose with upgrades, but that Dubai-NYC route costs , so freebies were doubtful. Also, it was fully booked–we asked, just to see how much it would cost if you did pay to upgrade out of pocket) even though we'd been wowed on the initial flight from Dubai to NYC by Emirate's nicest, spacious economy seating, ridiculous entertainment system (I really did not like Hunger Games or even Friends With Kids, which superficially would seem up my alley. My plans to watch Take Shelter, Jeff, Who Lives At Home and We Need to Talk About Kevin were thwarted by the inability to concentrate on movies when flying and the hard-to-put-down nature of Gone Girl) and amenities ever (the bathrooms are spacious and use wood finishes instead of plastic–and like Cathay and Singapore, you get socks, an eyeshade and toothbrush/toothpaste). Weirdly, they served mini Tillamook Cheese, which one would not expect from a Middle Eastern carrier that barely services the US. Anyway, when you get a taste of the good life, the not-so-bad life–Oregon cheddar and all–threatens to lose its luster.
But now, one week in NYC, my standards are all nicely back in check and low as ever.
A380 lounge photo from Emirates