After I died,
Almost, ok, almost,
I promised myself I wouldn't let the mess of this cold hard life get to me. But I didn't keep that promise, because here I am, in that co-organized trash we call work. Because, I guess, career wound up being more important than just about everything. I let go of all the people and subjugated fun to Dr. Seuss books and something that belonged to other, irresponsible, people and playground children. Not me. Sacrifice
is what we do
All important money
The Republican religion,
Trent's God money.
Here I always thought I was a silly liberal, Democrat even
And I turned out to be one of them
Hate myself for the lie.
Which makes me angry, like them
At everything. Judging everything.
When it hurts this much, cut off from humanity,
Didn't God himself say something like:
I didn't create hell, you did.
Why are you way over there in the cold hard dirt?
All you have to do is come back.
When you're ready come back.
The door is always open.
I'll be here waiting with a pillow for you
and a cup of coffee,
When you're ready.
Last night I was in bed with my wife after she picked me up from the airport after another business trip and I said to her -
I told her this story.
Yesterday I was at PDX.
PDX - that's what we business travelers call Portland International Airport. We who get all the air miles and take all the first class seats, and sneer at all of you flying with your children to grandma's and other unimportant destinations, we call airports by their three-letter FAA designations.
EWR is Newark. ORD is O'Hare (I heard it stands for "Old Orchard.") LHR is Heathrow. That would be in England. PHX is Phoenix. Not to be confused with PEK which is Bejing, not Peking.
Those are the letters for where I have spent most of my adult life. Instead - of course - of being home.
For a long time I wasn't home, which had its impact.
The dear lord gave me the gift of being quite un-uniquely unsuccessful: at least in my own eyes. Most people struggling for overhead luggage space are so much so. Most of the people fighting for the class upgrade, priority seating, the TSA fast lane - most are doing so to become successful in their own eyes.
But no matter how much or
I try I never
They're the same, you know. Airports are casinos. There is the collection of hopes and dreams gathered and bankrolled while the lucre is dispensed in droplets, titrated in drabs to those outstretched hands, adorned in rings, clutching smart phones, just beyond the wrists bearing Apple watches.
The cities have figured it out, especially Dubai, DXB. Nobody out-glitters the UAE. You can buy furs and a Ferrari at the kiosks at DXB. Women in burkas will pass you. Women in bikinis and high heels. Men in suits and thaub. If you have the means they know it and will sell you a Lamborghini and a tiger, or a ride in a real NHRA stock car, between flights. No kidding.
We populate those public transit spaces
moving from place to place looking. Searching. Working
Because we all know innately, that the way to fortune is success, and success means travel, and travel means airplanes, which means airports. Which is where everyone is who is looking
is on the path. Corpuscles in the commerce vein
the lifeblood of industry
without which we would be no better than wild animals
ragged, hungry, and warless,
save for the killing we needed to do to feed the children.
Man, what a digression. Let me start again.
Yesterday I was at PDX. On my way home from another week doing what pays me enough to keep me in my house.
What I do for a living is not fun, and never has been. Thirty years or so now. So long without it, I'm not sure I'd recognize fun if it happened to me.
and I decided to watch the football game. Packers and Lions. Lions beating the Packers at this point (Packers eventually won, but I was at 39,000 feet by then, in a coach-class seat, eating a tiny bag of pretzels handed to me by a woman in an airline uniform who's name was spelled LELIA IUNI according to her name tag, which I stared at long enough to make it seemed I was ogling her breasts but truthfully - I was mentally sounding out the letters I saw, trying to determine what it meant this LELIA IUNI - Then one of the other cabin attendants introduced all the stewardesses on flight 404, PDX to SJC (San Jose - not SJO, which is also San Jose, but in Costa Rica). The blue-clad Alaska Airlines employee was named - Lelaini (I spell it like I heard it), which one presumes is a Hawaiian name because it sounds like one, which made sense because the plane was stopping at SJC (in California, not Costa Rica), and then heading on to JHM (Maui, Hawaii) which is probably where this lady was from. ) (unnest parantheticals)
I was watching the football game in the Alaska Airlines Boardroom. That's their lounge, between gates C2 and C3 in the "C" concourse at PDX. In SEA, (SeaTac) it's between the A and C gates - and it's much bigger there, two floors. My wife's aunt used to work there. Now she's in Africa. Kenya. Helping put up public radio stations. Wait -
They're putting one (Boardroom) out by the N gates as well, but it won't be completed until 2016. They've got a sign in the N terminal that says: coming-soon, ANOTHER ALASKA AIRLINES BOARDROOM - which is really more like a bully taunting you on a playground when you're way out there in the N gates, having taken the train, being far away from the food court and the Beecher's cheese store, where we buy our summer cheese, and the only real Boardroom that you're paying for - and now you have to sit in the crowds instead of the comfy chairs with the electrical outlets, watching the football game.
At the PDX Boardroom I was watching the game. They have four rows of chairs in front of the TV, which has its sound off and CC turned on (closed captioning - that means some poor person has to listen to the words spoken by the announcers and type them in like a court stenographer - sometimes they get the words wrong and you can tell from context but you know they're wrong so it only annoying, not debilitating) so as to not bother the other people who don't want to watch TV. I guess if you can't read English you're out of luck, TV wise, there, which seemed to be true of the old Asian guy sitting next to me, but who really knows.
I was at PDX in the Boardroom watching the football game, in the third of four rows of seats positioned in front of the TV, next to an Asian guy with his wife who spoke only Chinese (I couldn't tell if it was Mandarin or Shanghainese or some other dialect - I don't speak any Chinese so even though I've spent a lot of time in Taiwan and Shanghai I can't tell them apart, but I can tell it from Japanese, for instance, a language in which I have been schooled by Berlitz for twelve weeks and in which the inflection of your voice doesn't change the meaning as much as Chinese or Thai - where I have never been.) I mean, he might have been totally fluent in English but he didn't speak a word of it while I was there and it seemed his wife was translating to him that Aaron Rogers appeared to be having lots of trouble against the Lions's defense, or else they were talking about something utterly irrelevant to the sport of American football or the NFL's television broadcast of that game, which was intended only for the private use of their viewers and not to be duplicated or repeated in any way without the expressed written consent of the NFL. It didn't matter.
It just doesn't matter. Life goes on. People breathe and blood flows and you can buy a set of noise-cancelling headphones at the SONIC EFFECTS store near gate C10 if you don't want to hear them. If you just want to read the words that the CC person is typing - which by the way - could be done these days by any number of voice recognition systems utilizing Markov Chains to parse language and select words.
Computers are doing that. Siri in your pocket is doing that. Look it up if you don't believe me. Markov chains. They don't actually understand you. They're just putting words next to sounds.
Which is what I was doing listening to the Chinese gentleman and his wife. Or maybe she was his daughter. Or his mistress. Or his nurse. Or someone he met on the plane who took pity on him for not speaking English but being at PDX where almost nobody is speaking Mandarin and found out he had a Boardroom membership so she was able to get away from the crowds and sit in the worn leather seats instead of the hard plastic ones out there by the gates where all the inexperienced travelers were sitting with their screaming kids and the business men who were too cheap to pay for a Boardroom membership themselves when the company wouldn't reimburse them for it. Four hundred bucks, American, per year, unless you make Alaska Airlines VIP gold, by flying over 50,000 miles in one year, and then it only costs two-ninety-nine. I fly 48,000 miles per year so I go through 99% of the pain but don't get Gold ("almost" only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades - the number is 50,000, and any less body-slams you into lower-category) so I pay four hundred
to sit in the seats in front of the TV with CC on
and eat the goldfish crackers.
Why does this seem to you like a waste of a perfectly good human life? Why does it seem to you like you could be doing something better? Like playing with your children or snuggling with your spouse, or talking about her day and planning what you're going to do that weekend, or finding out for the first time that she really likes Coldplay and you never knew it
"You never asked."
"I have all their music."
"I know, I listen to it when you're gone."
"I never knew that."
I just, didn't
Last night I was in bed with my wife after she picked me up from the airport and I told her this story.
I was in the Alaska Boardroom in Portland, watching the Lions beating up on the Packers, and there was a man and woman in the seats in front of me. They have the TV volume turned all the way down so they don't disturb the business people on their cell phones. On their laptops sending e-mails. Setting up the next meeting. Next flight. Next trip. Mileage gained. Room reso to sleep and awake to dry scrambled hotel breakfast egg buffet (do you want the buffet or will you order from the over-priced menu?) and weak bulk-bought restaurant-grade coffee. Twelve dollar plastic clam shelled tuna sandwich in seat 15C (not the exit row, but at least an aisle) and maybe room service, maybe some heart stopping greasy poly-unsaturated burger-butter-cheese-and-egg combo.
Rinse and repeat.
Didn't Chuck Palaniuk write about this same thing? Back and forth to PDX? That's where he's from, the bastard. Hasn't written a single good honest thing since and that's what Portland does to you. Drapes you in dark and rain and enough beer to fill both your legs.
Only I don't want to be beaten Palaniuk bloody. Don't want no more pain. I have enough I can't get rid of and you can't give this away at any price.
"Honey, what's wrong?" she says. She puts her hand on my cheek. I can barely feel it but I know it's there.
She's wiping away tears that must be hers that got there somehow.
"I can't think," I think to say, but I think what comes out is a groan. Pitiful pity me. What a wimp. What a pussy. Can't take the pressure, loser.
Holy crap, have I been crying at the airport? How long has this been going on? Do I cry on the planes? Does it come out this way? Is this why Leilani (phonetic) gave me two bags of pretzels? Is that why the my hands were wet and shaking?
They stopped serving those tiny bags of salted peanuts on the plane. Too worried some allergic kid is going to go into fits and I think - you don't need a gun if you want to bring down a plane, just crack open a jar of peanuts and sprinkle them around. There won't be enough epi-pens for everyone.
"My god, what's wrong?"
I'm really tired but I can't sleep.
"...tired..." I lay in bed for hours but I have to get up. I watch youTube and I type e-mail to people who work for me in foreign countries where it's daytime. It's always daytime somewhere, and that's just the physics of living on an oblate spheroid. The earth is not a ball, you know. It's kind of pear shaped - only it's like that on both ends. You can tell by gravity and by the way the satellites circle. There are idiots in every country, in every time, in all of history and all the future to come will be: there are people who refuse to believe in moon landings and global warming and a round earth. Can you believe that by now, with every pilot in every plane on earth having to program in a great circle route rather than a straight linear coordinate path - that you'd still have people trying to prove a flat earth.
I got news for you numbskulls. The earth is round and we landed on the moon when I was a kid and I've been in Antarctica watching the glaciers melt. So you can wish for a reality you want to be,
But you're lying to yourselves, and bringing up your children to ignore the physics of reality and they will suffer -
dear God, will they suffer, because we live in a world where our concepts are real, and yours are not - losers. Which is what I want to say to all you global warming deniers/flat earthers. You lose. You're losers, one and all and we can prove it, so get to your knees and beg,
you're working like worshiping dogs, worshiping God money - all that counts is I get mine and as I'm Libertarian, I don't give a damn what you have - just get away from mine. If you losers want what I have you need to work like I do. You need to sacrifice like I did. Give up your holidays and spend 10 years working without a vacation and miss your children's birthday parties and soccer games and seeing them smile and grow teeth and hair and have them forget who you are and not want to be left alone with you because they don't know you, your kids don't know you, you the provider, the bread winner, who gave them a home and meals and sent them to private school and
so lay there enveloped in your memory foam staring at the ceiling not knowing what time it is, with your body aching in places that used to be solid because you're old and all those years are
they told you - every wise man on earth told you and you spit in their coffee because you were smarter and your bank account proved it. You get the one life spend it wisely. And so you go and make dollars.
millions I've made millions and spent it
and feel the heartache, millionaire. Know that you've lost what can never be returned. Time. It's linear. It moves at the speed of light and drags you along with it, fading your memories and rusting your insides until you wake up one day and realize it wasn't worth it.
not one bit. not one fucking bit. And then, think, what do I have?
Only what's been there all along. The people who love you have been waiting.
God has been waiting.
"Why are you out there in the cold and rain, soggy and shivering? I've been sitting here, looking at you, wondering why you torture yourself like that. I gave you all this green earth, and brilliant blue stars, and air, and love, and puzzles to wonder over, and you chose to be miserable. I gotta admit, it's a weird choice. Interesting, though. You want to come in and talk about it?"
and my wife says, "Honey, what's wrong..."
I forgot...I can't remember... Failure. I've failed.
"It's over and I don't deserve to come home."
"oh my poor husband. we've been here all along waiting."
oh God. you can take it all back. everything. every last bit.
just let me go home.