The Case of the Missing Dee Jay

It was neither a dark nor stormy night when the bus departed from the parking lot of a local radio station. It was actually a sunny day but still a mystery was about to ensue. I was escorting a “come along” trip for a local radio station’s easy listening channel and the popular morning guy was to be the “Pied Piper”. A “come along” trip often features a public person with a following of fans who serves as a figurehead leader. Their attendance is to entice others to join them on the journey. This particular adventure would be a cruise on the Mississippi River aboard the historic Delta Queen Steamboat. Originally built in 1926 she had an on board atmosphere that was both nostalgic and elegant and was host to three Presidents during her tenure, most recently President Jimmy Carter. It promised to be a fun trip and when I think of “fun” cities New Orleans usually tops the list. Thirty other travelers shared my perspective and a group was born. N’awlins, as it’s pronounced by the locals, is just one of those places that’s guaranteed to offer a good time or shock the heck out of you. Many believe, myself included, that you have to visit at least once in your life, and I’ve been fortunate to visit twice. Some folks would say that was two times too many while others would say I was just gettin’ started. It’s definitely a matter of opinion and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. She’s a saucy little town that goes by many names. Her formal name is New Orleans, presumed to be a tribute to Phillip II, the Duke of Orleans a city in France. Perhaps I shouldn’t assume, but I suspect that he must have been a really fun guy. NOLA, The Big Easy and Crescent City are amongst the most common nicknames bestowed upon the seaport and need a bit of explanation. NOLA is an acronym with “NO” representing the initials of New Orleans and “LA” the state abbreviation for Louisiana. As with much common folklore there’s no one answer about how the name “Big Easy” originated. The most widely accepted explanation is that it’s a reflection of the laid back, easy going lifestyle experienced in the birth place of jazz. It’s likely that the Vieux Carre, a.k.a the French Quarter acquired its nickname “the Crescent City”, due to its location in a bend of the Mississippi river. A quick stroll through the French Quarter unveils mystical fortune tellers, and a fascination with voodoo and the occult. Peek down any side street and you will find some of the more unique window shopping you’ll ever experience. An occasional scantily clad woman in a window beckons you and leaves me wondering on which street you find the scantily clad men? New Orleans can easily be summed up with the 3 “B’s” Blues, Babes and Booze. It’s hard to believe that this naughty city is located in the South, the Bible Belt of the country, but this is one book you shouldn’t judge by its cover. New Orleans offers Southern hospitality, great food and charming architecture. It’s the kind of city that leaves you wanting more, some people more than others. On the day of departure I escorted the group to the pier. Even though I would not be sailing with the group I was allowed on board to see for myself the magnificence of the ship. As departure time neared I wished everyone a bon voyage and we said our good-byes with me waving from the dock. I spent one final night in the city before flying back to New York and returning to work. The week passed quickly and the following weekend I boarded the bus that would travel to the airport to transport the returning travelers to Dutchess County. As is common practice when overseeing a group, I conducted an inventory of passengers. Obviously your returning numbers should be equal to your departing numbers, but this time that wasn’t the case. Members of the group were rather nonchalant when they advised me that the radio station deejay had chosen to not return to Poughkeepsie.  It would seem that the siren song of this naughty city was almost too much for the host deejay to resist. Many reported seeing him tearing the pages listing information on radio stations from the local phone book. It had all the hallmarks of a job search.  I had never lost a passenger before however this was less about a stray traveler and most likely a defection. He had made a deliberate choice to stay behind and I wasn’t sure if it fell within my job description to head back down in a search and retrieve mission.  He was an adult exercising his own free will and it wasn’t up to me to decide if he had made a wise choice. I’m certain it was a surprise for the radio station when he didn’t show up to work on Monday morning. I heard through the grapevine that he eventually returned to Poughkeepsie and resumed employment with the radio station, albeit in a different position. I hope that he didn’t view his return to Dutchess County as failure. What others might have seen as a momentary lapse of judgement I now see as a bold quest for a new direction in life. However short that side trip might have been, I hope he felt brave and free and emerged with a new found lust for life. Inspired by the Crescent City he followed his dream and even if that detour led him right back to Poughkeepsie where he began his own personal journey, he still took that chance. I respect that and I wish a little New Orleans for all of us.

The Delta Queen ceased operations in 2015 when she went in to dry dock to be refurbished and it is hoped that she will relaunch in the near future.

For more information on or to follow the progress of the Delta Queen’s anticipated return to service please visit   http://www.save-the-delta-queen.org/delta-queen-steamboat-company-is-the-new-owner-of-the-delta-queen/

 

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Pay to Play

Are you old enough to remember buying an airline ticket, receiving a seat assignment, and being welcomed aboard a clean plane? Your luggage was checked without a fee, and as you settled into the aisle seat you requested, the Flight Attendant handed you a complimentary blanket. You also received a headset that allowed you to enjoy the complimentary in flight entertainment. A selection of alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages accompanied a hot meal on long flights or a snack on shorter flights. An experience such as this can still be had aboard international carriers. On domestic flights it’s gone the way of airport porters and refundable economy tickets and both no longer exist. The airlines say it’s all about “options”. I say it’s about profit.  Their seemingly selfless goal is to allow each passenger to choose his or her amenities to personalize their trip to their liking. I would call that fancy marketing.  The air carriers graciously allow you to pay more if you want an aisle or window seat. You can also pay more if you wish to have the exit aisle with the extra legroom, but buyer beware. The mantle of authority is transferred to you because sitting at the exit row comes with additional responsibility. In the event of an emergency, should it become necessary, you will be the hero who unlocks and opens the emergency door. Your mission, should you accept it, also includes assisting others off the plane before you too, beat a hasty retreat. Perhaps they should pay you for agreeing to do what should be the responsibility of the crew. Once airborne, you’ll barely have time to put your seat back tray in an upright and locked position before flight attendants will offer headsets for sale, mileage earning credit cards and Sky Mall catalogs from which the truly bored with extra money order odd items to be delivered to their home. From the very first time a passenger paid to sit on the aisle I hung my head, recognizing the beginning of the end of basic on board amenities. The amenities are still available to passengers but no longer on a complimentary basis. Most carriers proudly proclaim that it’s all about choice. From my middle seat the only choice I see is pay for good service or don’t pay and receive no service.  Surely, we all deserve a fair amount of leg room? At five foot two I rarely have space issues. Still, I sit in solidarity with my fellow, taller travelers who are allotted less legroom than found at the local movie theatre. You usually pay about $10.00 at the theatre but at least you get a first run movie with decent sound quality. Today’s modern theatres offer seats that recline to a comfortable position and some even swivel.  Why should we have to pay to check luggage? Surely if we were taking a short jaunt we would drive our own vehicles and fill our trunks or hatchbacks and depart on time. It’s obvious, at least to me, that if we’re flying, it’s most likely to a destination out of local driving range. Shouldn’t it be presumed that we will need to bring some personal items along for the ride? The only travelers I’ve met who didn’t need to bring luggage were business travelers and nudists. I know what business fares cost. Believe me when I tell you that business travelers pay air rates high enough to allow you, me and everyone in rows 15 through 19 to check luggage for free. Business folk might need a change of shirt, underwear and a briefcase filled with paperwork and nudists, well they just need a toothbrush and some sunscreen. Seats and meals were just the start of the fees. It used to be a pleasure to escort a young adventurer on their very first flight. Most airlines even had special toys or coloring books for the wee solo travelers. The toys are long gone and have been replaced with fees as high as $100.00 in each direction to send Junior to visit Grandma. My estimates put the sky high babysitting cost at about $2.00 a minute. That’s long enough to escort the UM (unaccompanied minor) to their seat and assure that their seat belt is fastened correctly. They get checked on a few times during the flight and then after arriving at their destination, are walked off into the loving arms of their waiting family. I’m not sure how the airlines justify this fee since it would be a challenge for the minor to wander off a moving aircraft and get lost. If you’ve decided that you just can’t leave your best friend home you can expect to pay anywhere from $35.00 to $195.00 for Fido’s flight, in each direction. That’s a lot of kibble, especially since the pet carrier is expected to go under seat in front of you where you would normally place a carry on bag. As an animal lover, with that fee, I would expect the royal treatment for my dog to include a special showing of “Lassie” and gourmet biscuits. The bright side to all of these fees is that airfare prices have remained fairly constant through the decades. My very first flight was to Florida and the cost of the transportation was somewhere south of $200.00. Today you can book a nonstop flight from New York to Miami for under $160.00 including taxes! That’s definitely progress. It’s your choice to raise that fare by paying the fees for extra luggage or food or movies or legroom with the key word being “choice”. There are fewer airlines flying today compared to 30 years ago but competition remains vigorous and the airlines look for ways to keep their costs low so their prices remain lean and accessible to the masses. Deregulation of the airlines may have been the catalyst for the competition but charging fees is now part of a long term concierge style strategy and is here to stay.