Swimming to Manhattan

A personal journey to Spalding Gray’s Memorial Service in NYC
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
April 13th, 2004

by John Boland (aka ‘Ratz Garcia’)

Dedicated to Kathie, Melissa, Theo, Forrest … and Spalding

Days 9 and 10 – Why I Hate

(suggested music – Rebound by Cano – fantastic Canadian Group from 70’s, hard to find as download although it appears someone on Kazaa Lite++ has listed it under Swimming to Manhattan soundtrack as well – strange – they must be into affirmations…)(RIAA vs. Sharman – the record industry and Kazaa are just in it for the $!- subvert both by using KazaaLite++, go to and search for kazaa lite K++ - it may be hard to find, but it’s there!)
( Note that above is now largely irrelevant as Kazaa is now monthy subsription - isohunt and remain)

And hell…let’s throw in why I hate American Express as it makes for a good (horror) story too. Now there’s the short version, and the long version. Let’s go for the medium, 8 slice.

(All mentions of AMERICAN EXPRESS are deemed marked as a REGISTERED TRADEMARK and all mention of AMERICAN EXPRESS ® is written without prejudice though quite true...)

Years ago, I was hitching south on the Costa del Sol in Spain (alone). Met two women from the States hitching as well. Got to stay in an apartment that some rich dude had but didn’t use. So my dilemma was which one to sleep with. By the morning, I’d figured it out – an equitable solution – meet them again that night further down the coast and sleep with both of them… duh!

By that evening, it’s getting dark, I’m not near our meeting place and I can still remember the ominous dark clouds were speaking to me. A Mercedes (aka Mercenary Bents) stopped and promised me a ride all the way Morocco. I thought, yeah, I’ll just hop out at our meeting place. But first they stopped, bought me about eight cognacs, stopped at the side of road, and robbed me of everything at gunpoint.

I staggered to flag down a bus, explained to a student in French what had happened and they took me to the cop shop (army – no police in Spain). Cops didn’t speak English so they put me in a cell. If they liked you, you got a blanket – I got a blanket. I immediately gave it to a guy who seemed to be very cold – cement and January will do that. There were two cells – one big open room for me and the hookers and two iso cells for god knows who. I was popular as I had smokes. Not popular enough to get a blow job but popular. In the morning, the cops sent me to the British Vice Consulate. He immediately took me to the chief of police who spoke perfect Oxford English. I think that’s why that comes up so often in my detective books. Anyway, they are now on the hunt and the Consul gave me a wack of Spanish money and told me to get a room and wait til I got another passport, got my AMERICAN EXPRESS travelers checks back as well as various sundries (such as clothes). After one night, I developed a strong liking to Spanish beer and Qualudes (OTC in Spain). So 30 days went by pretty quick – got some cash wired, got a passport, but NO travelers checks! So I decided I’d go down south (by bus) and wait out American Express on the beach. Just as I was leaving, I stopped to thank the consul and he said that the Chief had just phoned and wanted to see me immediately. I wandered down the street, was whisked in and the chief asked me “Is this the man that robbed you?” And I had my first and only necessary lesson (not counting the blanket one) about the Spanish army. They are awesome! I filled out a few forms and asked what would happen if they caught this guy.

(Remember add Oxford accent):
“Well, Mr. Boland, it’s not if, it’s when.” He actually smiled. “Let’s just say that he will be going away for a very, very long time”. I took that to mean dead, thanked him and split for Marbella.

(a pychic told me tbat they were not the Germans shot in a Spanish road block - Franco's army 'don't ask, just shot motto'
The pychic said that he went to jail for a long time and became a Spam King and was shot by his local tech club...the psychic was free...)

Now, this was before the coast had condos and high rises. They were just little fishing villages. But they had already begun to hate English people so the AMERICAN EXPRESS office refused to speak to me. After a bit of the bullshit, I headed off for the infamous Torremolinos. It was really just a bunch of British pubs so after a few pints, I managed to get to the AMERICAN EXPRESS office. A wonderful woman phoned Paris to tell them my shocking story and immediately gave me a bunch of new checks. So 6 weeks to get my AMERICAN EXPRESS checks back and I never caught up to my friends…
And that is why I fucking hate AMERICAN EXPRESS!

Now to the present –! Why I hate

(Again EXPEDIA is a ® of EXPEDIA and the following is again written without prejudice however true...)

I had a dream. You see the day before I had found a flight with quasi bankrupt Air Canada thru expedia that was more than I wanted to pay but might just fit into the budget – nah, it wouldn’t, but it was direct from Victoria to NYC with I think a little stop in Vancouver. I can’t remember but I put a 24 hour hold on it. Then I had the dream that night. In the dream, I went on the computer and the price of the flight had doubled. So I was hesitant when I went to check in the morning. It had gone up $300 in the night! So I went back in the web site and rebooked the same flight. The old price came back up. Phew… And then the expedia site crashed when I went to pay. I quickly rebooted and it seemed ok but the price had gone up $400. So I phoned expedia – big mistake – the people answering the phone have no idea whatsoever about anything. When I asked to speak to the supervisor, he refused – and I was being very polite… which isn’t always my style – I blame it on banks in India where it will take 4 hours to cash a travelers check at which point yelling and screaming is the only solution. So the ‘clerk’ on the phone back in real time expedia looks and the price is up $500. At last we find a flight that is still way more than the price last night but he says he’ll hold that price, and the asshole supervisor passes along the message that I can phone back and cancel.

I get this shot of desperation and intelligence and say – what the fuck – go to the actual Air Canada web site and see… totally different flights listed at prices that are around the original price – and better times, less stops, way better. But their web site crashes too. So I get thru to their tech people – yes they have computer techs and she fixes it so I get my flight. Almost the right price (still double the original budget), but convenient times, no stops in Kansas and best of all – La Guardia landing. I thought that was good; turns out JFK is now cheaper to get to Manhattan as they have a speed train that hooks to the subway. Whatever. I'm a La Guardia man...

Now – I phone expedia back – they have no idea what I am talking about. They finally find … I’m so tempted to say his name … the fuck head supervisor will do, and yes I can cancel the flight. I think, hey, I’m on my way…

Follow up – when I get back from NYC, the next day, my visa bill arrives. Apparently, I flew to NYC return on the same days, TWICE, once courtesy of Air Canada and once courtesy of EXPEDIA.COM. They had kindly refunded me their $5 service charge…

This is what I wrote to expedia customer service:

I booked a flight on line but was severely delayed by expedia site being down. By the time I got thru, the price had gone up $300. I told them I wanted to cancel. They went to ---- (supervisor) - he refused to speak to me but told the person on phone that my reservation would be canceled. I was even told to phone back and confirm this, which I did. Now after the trip, I get my visa with the expedia charge listed.

To put it mildly, I am not paying. I have reported this to Visa as fraud. Air Canada is reconsidering the charge. (Editor’s note: they were at first very helpful but an Air Canada supervisor phoned back and was rude – no wonder they’re bankrupt!)

I insist on a reply from expedia. My email is

Without a written reply and resolution to this problem in a timely fashion, 10 days, I will:

  1. post a very negative review of expedia on my high traffic web site as well as friends' web sites that have thousands of hits a day. I will post negative reviews in every place I can think of.
  2. I will be suing expedia in small claims court for 10 thousand dollars as this would cover cost of refund as well as aggravated and punitive damages and court costs.
    Please inform ---- (Editor’s note - supervisors name deleted – mostly cause he’s such a fucking asshole that he would take exception to the truth) he will also be listed on the lawsuit.
  3. I look forward to your response - the Air Canada # was 014----------
without prejudice,
John Boland, MSW

So about 55 minutes later, expedia customer relations phones me. Nice as warm apple pie a la mode. Of interest is that they are very concerned about me reporting them to Visa for fraud. Kinda makes ya wonder. Anyway, they promise that they will phone Air Canada and if Air Canada doesn’t cut me a check, expedia will. I’ll like them more when I have the check in my hand. Otherwise, I go back to 1 and 2, and get another story out of the little fuckers.

Postscript : I was refunded by Air Canada which means those very nice people at Expedia got to keep the commission.
Many thanks to the fan for sending me an Expedia coupon as they really...well she wasn't happy and received many coupons...
Recently (Dec. 2010), I tried to get an affiliate with American Express for, however I would not qualify as the site as per above does indeed say something negative about American Express...and that is not allowed according to their terms of agreement...
You see Spalding recommended paying the American Express air ambulance annual fee after his fateful crash in Ireland...and wear your seat belts! (see Life Interrupted).

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