Project and Travel Blog
I am flying business out of Seattle to Frankfurt, then on to Paris. Business is worth it. Leaving Seattle in a gray, driving, leaden rain that was propelled by Northerlies. I jumped from my car at SeaTac, Kissed fervently my beautiful wife, Jane. I walked to the Lufthansa desk and presented my papers. I was whisked off to the clear line, a service that we paid for last year, which takes you to the front of the line and through the anxiety that is security. Security, it seems, is always an anxiety-ridden event. I have nothing to fear except the mold and foot diseases that abound on the floor of the transit area around the passage from security to 'okay, you are free to board.' I am jostled and pushed, and in turn, pushed an jostled, as I preliminarily take off my shoes. The floor is a crowding mass of microbes. I once read that 95 percent of taxis in New York City are smeared with germs that I have no desire to know the names of. Names like Thiscoccus and Thatstrepto, and well, my toes are curling. I pull off my belt, my pants slide down three inches, empty my pockets, take out my coins, passport, receipts for things I forgot I bought, tickets for transfer from Frankfurt to Paris, keys to my truck, which I didn't want to bring, and finally, at the bottom of my capacious pockets: a small, custom, stainless steel pocket knife I received as a gift last Christmas.
The TSA officer, a plump girl of about 25, eyes the knife as though it were perhaps a hand grenade, looks me in the eyes, and shakes her head. She presents me with a choice - go back through security and mail it to myself, in which case I run the risk of missing my flight, or follow her pointed finger, like the ghost of the past in Scrooge, at a dark and forever-lost garbage can. I threw it in, and asked innocently, "where will it go?" She shrugged. I asked secondarily, had anyone ever done a medical swab on the infected floor beneath my feet. She eyed me seriously. Perhaps I was some kind of agitator. All of the people around me were going through the x-ray machines as well, giving up their dignity. Some in bare feet, God forbid on that putrescent floor. My belongings were x-rayed. I was x-rayed, my neighbors were x-rayed, and the whole place had a radio-isotope glow that had me wishing the shoe-bomber was having a miserable day wherever he was incarcerated. Through security, I quickly put on my shoes, put on my belt, refilled my pockets, minus my knife, of course. I took my irradiated carry-ons and left for the train to S Gates, still holding a modicum of my dignity after undressing and redressing in public. The Lufthansa transit lounge is secure and privileged, and I am once more glad I am traveling business class.
Air travel - what a marvel! My mortal body at 36,000 feet over the Arctic, secure in my stratolounger seat, which folds into a bed, into a chaise lounge, with a footrest, and a manifold of other contortions. Out my window (I like to sit by the window to see the world go by). I see below this frozen wilderness where only 100 or 200 years ago people in skin boats hunted seals, where the Hudson Bay Company's 'Nonsuch' boat disgorged trappers onto the Canadian wilderness, and sweated, and froze, and toiled, and cursed, where I now serenely, warm, and very comfortable, fly over in a moment, a miracle.
Part of the miracle for me in this trip, my son Nev and his girlfriend Morgan, a beautiful woman, are living in Paris for three months. When they left from Seattle they said no-one was to visit them on this European sojourn, especially family. I concurred, and so my wife, Jane, and I decided instead we would go to Tokyo and Seoul, Korea to watch the cherry blossoms.
What's the music...try utube biwa.
Do you ever awake in your oh-so-comfortable warmth of your own bed, lie there sweetly, serenely, feeling as though you are square somehow with the universe, that around you everything is perfectly level, harmonious, and somehow you are a part of the music of the spheres?
We are flying east into the darkness. My mind is unhinged when I fly. The windows are tinged with pink to the west. Below, all is in shadow. While here at 36,000 feet, I still have a bit of pink from the day's sun reflected by the wings and the great, thrusting engines driving me east into the night. I can't help myself. I think of Napoleon driving his armies east into the Russian winters. And Hitler and his maniacal madness advancing the same road east only to try to retreat the same disastrous burnt road west in defeat. I saw a graveyard in the Atlas Mountains in southern Poland once, where all was teutonic crosses - gray and perfect - with the names of the dead. There were privates, corporals, generals, all buried in mass graves, all having died the same day, and this, only a day's drive from Auschwitz to the north.
We glide east. Dinner is over. I feast on the remains: cheese and cognac. Night has now come, not only to those 36,000 feet below, but to our glowing 747, pushing, willing its way ever eastward. The horizon is now only a thin, pink line, the sun's energy spent on this day, and the light now is in the cabin of our ship. Below it is dark, the strobes off the wings flash neon tetra warnings as to our presence in the dark sky. Off to the east, it is morning it is morning in Paris. Off the west, it is evening in Seattle and I am at the arc.
Travel is a bit like dying. You make all the preparations. You leave everything behind. You make plans for your departure. You hug your dogs. You kiss the cat. Embrace your love, and then you depart. It's a lesson. Get used to it. It comes to all.