When I started traveling for work, it meant flying to the occasional event in a smaller city, where I would stand for hours behind a six-foot-long table, smiling and handing out countless pork buns, the dish that—for better or worse—my Momofuku restaurants are known for.
Back then, I thought I had my air travel game down. I’d get to the airport as early as I could in an attempt to score an exit row or bulkhead seat—the first class of the common man. Then I would make a beeline for the departure gate so I could hunt down the best spot in which to wait.
The best seat in the terminal for coach-class flyers is the one closest to an open outlet, so you can charge whatever electronic distractions you’re bringing on board with you. It’s also facing the gate, so when your plane is interminably delayed, and you’re nearly unconscious from a combination of dehydration, frustration and exhaustion, if you manage to open your eyes a slit, you can see if the passengers who still have the ability to decipher the departure announcements are piling up around your gate.
I felt tough, like I’d hacked coach flying. But a few years ago—in part because I had to feed pork buns to a lot more people in a lot more places and in part because we decided to open Momofuku restaurants in other countries—I joined that group of people I used to stare down contemptuously as they breezed through check-in: first-class travelers.
I changed my disdainful tune pretty fast. In first class, there’s acres of legroom and endless Champagne, and they never, ever tell you to stop typing on your BlackBerry—even during takeoff! It’s full of surprises. The first time I flew first class on Emirates, headed to the other side of the globe, I saw that it’s Bye Bye Burkas! at 30,000 feet. Not only did the women on the flight shed their coverings—they were dripping in brand-name accessories. Unbelievable. I celebrated by watching every season of “The Wonder Years,” which was, rather miraculously, available on my private television set. I never wanted that flight to end.
Thousands more miles in the air have made me more discerning. Now that I travel enough—too much for someone who, if there were more justice in the universe, would be kept chained behind a stove—I know that the best part of first class isn’t on the plane. It’s in the airport, in the airline lounges.
When I travel, I don’t actually spend enough time in any place to relax and stretch out. I do meetings and events and maybe have a fancy dinner with people I don’t know, and then I go right back to the airport for hours or even days of travel. It’s at the airport that I have a chunk of free time.
I’ve spent enough time in airports to have learned that domestic lounges leave something to be desired—at least, now that I’ve left behind the days of getting blackout drunk for long flights. The liquor served in lounges in other countries is of far better provenance.
The Virgin Atlantic lounge in Heathrow Airport has its own hot tub, massage therapists and barbershop. I got my hair cut there once, and they made a big deal about some kind of bumblebee being behind it. Later, a friend told me they were talking about Bumble and Bumble, a fancy brand of salons and hair products. Sometimes I don’t even know how impressed I should be.
British Airways has a great lounge in Heathrow, too. I love how the amenities—all of which are incredibly posh—are limited only to passengers traveling at the appropriate level of first-class-ness. They card passengers like they’re 16-year-olds trying to buy beer. “I’m sorry, sir, you didn’t pay $25,000 for your ticket, so you can’t pass through this door.” It’s a pissing contest for the privileged. I bet you can get your monocle repaired there if you’ve got enough miles stocked up.
And the food! I was in a fancy Qantas lounge in Sydney that offered a menu by Neil Perry, who is possibly Australia’s most famous chef. I thought, Why not? And it wasn’t just good for airport food—I wanted to push my way into the kitchen and see if there was a full brigade back there, with chef Perry standing over them yelling at them.
But the best airport eating is to be had in Japan Airlines’ spot in Narita International Airport—also probably the best lounge I’ve ever disgraced the inside of. Hell, the food in Narita’s food courts is better than it is at 90% of Japanese restaurants in the States, but the lounge food is especially worth seeking out.
And the amenities: I showered there once when I was traveling through (not even to) Japan, and realized that I have stayed in hotels boasting constellations of stars that were less comfortable and luxurious than that airport lounge. I also learned never to underestimate the restorative power of a shower while traveling.
It was a practical revelation, but also a sad one: I’ve become a travel snob. All the things I thought I’d one day be a snob about—transcendental authors, sports history, obscure rock ‘n’ roll records—and here I am, a pampered jet-setter.
It’s even sadder that I still look like a bum—frayed black Converse sneakers, bloodshot eyes, a tattered gym bag of belongings strapped to me—and act like a cook.
Speaking of which, I’d like to close with a note to the tall, elegant woman who was dressed in expensive-looking head-to-toe white and who flew KLM first class from the Netherlands to New York during fashion week last year: I have no idea how I managed to board the plane in the Amsterdam-induced fog I was in, or how I was able to knock your cranberry juice all over you even though our seats were so far apart.
My offer to pay for your dry cleaning still stands.
FYI - Our company policy is everyone flies coach & this goes all the way to the TOP.
“Salt Peanuts” is a bebop tune reportedly composed by Dizzy Gillespie in 1942, credited “with the collaboration of” bebop drummer Kenny Clarke. It is also cited as Charlie Parker’s.
In fact, while the verbal exhortation ”Salt Peanuts, Salt Peanuts!” is closely identified with Dizzy Gillespie, the musical motif upon which it is based actually predates Gillespie/Clarke by at least several months, as it appears as a repeated six-note instrumental phrase played on piano by Count Basie on his July 2, 1941 recording of “Basie Boogie” for the Columbia/OKeh label. Basie also played it in a recorded live performance at Cafe Society later that year. Both recordings are available on CD for verification as examples that predate Dizzy Gillespie’s first use of the phrase.
Salt Peanuts was most famously recorded by Dizzy Gillespie and His All-Stars on May 11, 1945 in New York City for Guild Records. The lineup was as follows: Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet)—Charlie Parker (alto sax)—Al Haig (piano)—Curley Russell (bass)— Sid Catlett (drums).
Dear Mr. Guido,
I have enjoyed your Tumblr for some time now and find inspiration in your aesthetic. Hence, my reason for approaching you.
My query is in relation to the Burberry trench you reposted some weeks ago with the caption, 'Every gal should have a well fitted trench.'
I am currently willing to invest in - what will hopefully be - a well fitted wool trench coat given the recent cold spot in my area. However, I am currently debating as to whether to purchase a grey, navy or black trench. For reference, I would like to wear the coat with black pants.
I was very much hoping you would be able to offer some insight in regards to my decision.
Regardless, thank you kindly for your time. I will continue to appreciate your future postings.
Apologies for the delay - but I see that you also asked my Sistah.
Listen to her for a women’s view..
I know that a lot of women fall into the black black black as it is “en vogue” or ? But there is so much more than black black black.
Back to your Q. I would try & avoid wool as a trench is designed as a outer layer for wind/rain. Also if you are going to invest in one, then ensure that you can wear it more than a few months in a year.
Please make sure it has shape (not too fitted as you will be wearing this over other layers) & not too long, go for knee length at the most.