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So there's nothing like arriving at the airport in plenty of time and having the smiling (really) agent say to you, after you have been foiled by the e-ticket kiosk yet again, "You're supposed to have a paper ticket." Such a simple phrase; such dire consequences. Safe to say, an hour and a half later I was sprinting through Newark Airport, after a series of bureaucratic crazinesses that would have made a border guard in Iron Curtain-era Albania shudder with horror. Arrived at the gate, breathless, only to find that gusty winds had delayed my flight to Lisbon (more on that later) by two and a half hours.

The ideal answer to this kind of soul-and-body-destroying stress is of course a good glass of wine. But of course, Newark Airport, come on. The A&W Rootbeer Hut? No vino for you, ace. The Hungry Panda Express Chinese Steam-Slop-Tray Stop? Er, maybe not.

But much to my surprise, the very sketchy recreation of Manahttan's midtown Gallagher's Steakhouse, lodged just a few quick steps past gate C121 (that'd be Terminal C, if you're in B or A and really desperate) not only has a reasonable glass of 2006 Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc for $9, but will also sell you a bottle of 2002 Château Lynch-Bages for a mere $115. Lynch-Bages at Newark Airport! Go figure. And even with the airport highway-robbery markup, it's still less than you'd pay for the stuff at many Manhattan restaurants.

I take it as a sign that wine really has permeated the strange fabric of everyday American life. Follow it up with this conversation between a muscle-bound guy wearing a basketball warm-up suit and the waiter, after a bottle of Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Pinot had been delivered and tested:

Muscle-bound guy: "That's pretty oaky—just kidding! I know wine about as well as..."
Waiter: "About as well as I know wine!"

Much laughter all around. Me, I ate my steak sandwich and drank my Manhattan (extreme circumstances require extreme remedies) and marveled at the wonder of it all.