JUNE 30-July 1:
I’m going to try to do this in order of the days and not do an overview first.
The first adventure was The Mad Rabbi of National Airport. While waiting for our flight to JFK, I noticed a strange robed figure standing near our gate, weaving and bobbing and bowing to the windows. My heart started pounding. Clearly whoever this was suffered from some mental disorder, which could include preparation for martyrdom. Eventually the figure turned slightly to reveal somekind of headgear that looked like an empty ink cartridge and a open book held in his hands. More heart pounding. They called our flight. I’m going, “please please do NOT get on this flight.” As we got closer he began to unwrap himself from both his robes, so you could see his yarmulke, and from thick black plastic bands that were digging into the pudgy flesh of his arms and chest and that held the strange little black boxes onto him in various places. Jeff said they were rat traps to catch the evil thoughts.
Thankfully he did NOT get on our plane.
The flight itself was uneventful, as was the Swiss Air flight to Geneva. We sat in the very last rows, on the aisles. I didn’t feel as bad as I’d expected to when we got there. But was very pissed off because the Chamonix Shuttle wasn’t there to meet the plane. I wandered around in a snit for about 45 minutes and was just about to buy a bus ticket when she showed up, breathless, a Kiwi it turns out, and told us we still had to wait another hour or so for another flight with some customers on it. I was even more pissed. We went and had a beer and then the five Brits she picked up, for whom we waited an hour and a half, were pissed at us for making them wait a couple of minutes and didn’t speak to us the entire way.
Ah well. We got to our hotel, which turned out to be outside Chamonix and not very nice. Hotel Les Lanchers, but my God, our first views of Mont Blanc were enough to totally blow your mind. A torrent of rock and snow with long crumpled rivers of glaciers, and then these needle spires of rock extending east from the summit, like the teeth of Mordor. Quite, quite spectacular.

That night we slept through dinner and so we walked into Chamonix (about 20 minutes) had a great dinner and watched France v. Brazil in the World Cup. Lots of yelling, and screaming, and horn honking and dancing in the streets draped in the French flag. We walked back to our hotel along this river path, fully lighted until we took a wrong turn and walked about 10 minutes in the pitch dark along a glacial torrent, until we realized we’d gone wrong. Got turned around right and got back to the hotel about 12:30 to realize we were totally. 100 percent locked out. Really a bite in the ass. We found a Brit hotel owner across the street who tried to help, invaded a house behind the hotel and woke up some woman who owned a different hotel, who basically told us we were SOL. Finally went down to this other hotel to try to find a room to sleep in and damned if the waitress there didn’t used to date the bartender at our hotel and she called and woke him up and got the entry code. We got in and went to sleep. END OF DAY ONE


  1. You may actually know this — but the little boxes are called Tfillin (god…this is swimming back from deep childhood storage…) One (if one is a man) puts on one’s tallis and tfillin — the tallis being the prayer shawl, and the tfillin being a series of boxes, filled — I imagine — remember? — with some kind of holy writing — “law” — that’s all that IS holy in judaism. The power is in the placement and arrangement of the boxes. Very ancient. Very superstitious. Very OCD.


  2. But what’s with the very B&D straps?? Am I being grossly un-multicultural? What is up with this behavior? Is it an accepted way to begin an airplane trip or was this guy a little over-the-top? This is fascinating.


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