Newark at dawn. Me at the airport, sitting in the smokers' ghetto, sucking down Camels like there's no tomorrow, or if there is, I'm still going to be stuck in the airport waiting for a delayed flight. The sky is that shade of bright grey, like mother-of-pearl in front of an arc lamp, that you only see at dawn, and never expect even then.
In the misty distance, I can see giant sets of metal scaffolding, construction cranes maybe, but big even for that, artifacts of some alien civilization that landed in Newark, built an idol to their incomprehensible god at a scale that made sense to them but not us, and left never to return. The Budweiser brewery belches steam and neon light, we hopeless, self-destructive smokers give each other knowing looks out of the corners of our eyes, and somehow, briefly, all's right in the world.
The ride into Newark was like a painstakingly illustrated moving diorama of the Failures of Western Civilization: boarded up broken-windowed factories that you can't believe ever really made anything, tenements, an honest-to-god Maximum Security Prison. Depressing, in context, but all it takes is a little twist in thinking to dissociate this landspace from the actual human pain it represents, and think of it as the philosophical idea of Pain miraculously made manifest, a Bosch hellscape you can drive through, and it becomes a thing of beauty because it's so goddamn pure.
But now at the airport it's somehow different. Maybe because instead of being sealed instead my articulated steel and glass bubble, I'm sitting with other people, maybe because dawn's breaking now, maybe just because. We're all dwarfed by the landscape - even the roof of the smoking area is maybe thirty feet up, but we're all still here, still busy killing ourselves maybe, but that's doing something. I don't know any of these people, they don't know me, but I feel like we're all somehow conspirators together, all in on some desperate mission or horrible crime. Like if we all put our minds to it, we could crack the roof above us, send the prison walls tumbling down, sweep the factories into the sea. Probably we can't. Certainly we won't. But for one still, clear moment, I feel like we already have.