I was in the cab for about three minutes, heading up First Ave and trying to suck in enough New York with my eyes to last all weekend
, when I remembered that cabs make me nauseous. When you're driving, you don't think about your body; the vehicle is an extent of your brain. But thrown in a back corner I can barely see out the front, and sudden lurches and zooms fret me unwittingly. At stoplights I power down the window and just breathe, in, out. It barely helps. It was a bad ride.
We emerge from the long tunnel into North Brooklyn. The sky has been covered with gray all day. I'm looking at Orthbanc from the south for a change (it looks the same) and hey, there's the red crane right by my house! I twist around and say goodbye to the Empire and the Chrysler. They'll never know how much I love them, now that they're all we've got. The driver asks me to fork over $3.50 for the toll. It was a long ride.
All of the airport formalities I'm dreading turn out to be a breeze. In no time, I'm sitting at my gate with two hours to murder. Outside, gray is now blue, and the rain is finally falling, heavier every minute. Through the window spatter, the landing lamps spray scattershot stars, little pinprick lights on the glass. My own miniature sky, the way it ought to appear. I wonder if the weather will impede the takeoff. It does not.
When I ordered the tickets online, I selected a starboard window, so I'd be looking north, simulating right to left as I journeyed east to west. I'm very anal and things like that comfort me. As we're speeding up the runway (this acceleration is relaxing; I've never been airsick), I silently say a few words to the planet, which I guess you could call a prayer if you wanted to. Goodbye earth. I love you very much and I don't want to be leaving you. Please don't hurt me when I come back.
Two feet from the face of every jetBlue passenger is a television screen, with a never-explained card swipe slot beside it. (I thought you could watch movies, that must have been another airline.) I used to work in television commercials and now I only watch a handful of specific programs. I never just flip because it makes me too angry. But I can't resist this toy. I settle on a rehash of the unpleasant news I'd been avoiding about the Senate bowing to Bush's war demands. "Hardball" on MSN, but this is more like getting beaned. The raspy host repeatedly interrupts his guests with bellowing, bullying them into technically agreeing with shortsighted sound bites.
He argues that since the Democrats side with the Republicans on "war" and "the economy", and since they can't vote uniformly on an issue, what is it that they stand for, and what right do they have to exist at all? Despite the galling call for unquestioning conformity, the most infuriating bit is he's right; the Democrats have been to the right of an educated centrist platform for years. You're not going to find mainstream leftists who say things like "Well, we stand for social justice, and environmental protection, and collaring corporate criminals" on a network run by Microsoft.
The book my grandmother gave me for Christmas (yes, nine months ago) isn't much better. Every character is a selfish stupid ass. It's set in the army in 50's peacetime: racist, homophobic and misogynistic as all fuck. Which I have no doubt that time and place was, but the author could try to convey some distance. I'm glad I brought some Harry Potter too -- I have to refresh myself for the upcoming movie, don't I? My water bottle leaked a little in my messenger bag, and the cover damage smells enchantingly sweet. The previous time I read this book I was also on a plane, headed down to Big Cypress.
That was one of the best weekends of my life, easily. But I really haven't got the slightest idea what to expect from this trip, expect smiles. This chunk of future's a blank slate before me, but not like white paper, like a blackboard. A little scary, and heavy.
I haven't been out west since I was 5, and that was moving away from Southern California in my Dad's long green Oldsmobile. Six years of living in New York City have made claustrophobia calming. These cities at the other end seem like bad ideas to me, if they exist at all; out where the land likes to rise up and kill people arbitrarily yet they can't even muster up a good blizzard. I'm not going to recognize their air, or their mountains. I hope I love it. I want to.
Sometimes, you just have to throw yourself at the people you love. Are yours kind enough to catch you? Mine are. Outside above and below are one big purple murk, dotted with vague yellow. This shitty funk I'm in is being erased like an imaginary state line.