Back from New England

(This would have been typed up and posted yesterday, if I was in any state of mind to.)

This plane is roomier than the last two, and I get a window. Tray table is very low, though. They have much fancier LCD screens that fold down out of the ceiling every two rows on both sides. Right now they're playing soothing ambient music and hypnotic patterns. It's like out of Brave New World (soma would make flights a lot more tolerable, come to think of it). If it's some hypnosis program to keep children quiet, I'm all for it.

This airline is cruel. They taunt you with a movie preview, then make you pay five dollars for (crappy little) headphones to watch the movie. Thankfully it looked like a very boring romantic comedy.

They serve complimentary drinks. I get another ginger ale.By a lucky fluke I am passed down not two, but four tiny biscuits. These will be my only sustenance aside from the bagel sandwich I had at the airport until Phoenix. These and the box of Mentos, though I don't think it will come to that. Why'd I bring these, anyways? Last flight I had coffee granola bars. Though those did seem to burn a little when I chewed them.

Meals are five dollars. Cocktails are five dollars. Headphones are five dollars.

This airline tells you to stay strapped into your seat even when the seatbelt light is off.

There is a stewardess who is not human. She is too horrible to be human. She asked our row if we wanted anything more to drink. I was going to say yes when I looked up, and saw her smile. It was reptilian, predatory, vicious. My hand flipped about in the air, pointing to something I couldn't see, and my eyes rolled in their sockets for a second before I mumbled 'no'. What the hell just happened? Is this some madness brought on by the altitude?

We fly over clouds, lots of clouds, and then over farmland. If crop-circling aliens were to visit today, they might think we were the ones trying to tell them something with the curious geometric patterns we shape our fields into. I try to place myself on the map - Boston to Phoenix, so southwest direction. We're probably passing over the northwestern-most quadrant of the South - Oklahoma and bordering states, I reckon. I wish these planes had some GPS system so you could know exactly where the plane is.

I listen to my iPod, and thus hear good, straight music for the first time in many days. Shinbone Alley's a great song for this kind of thing. I never did get around to cycling through Boston's radio offerings. Much of a digital-music junkie as I am, I would listen to the radio if the ads weren't so frequent and terrible. Maybe there's some decent pirate radio in Portland, if I can find it.

We pass over another long stretch of clouds, which I spend continuing Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72. I forgot how good it feels to read Dr. Thompson's mad ramblings. They should get Johnny Depp to narrate all his works into audiobook.

Something I've wondered about audiobooks - have they ever done them with multiple actors? While one person doing all the voices is traditional, it might be interesting to have, say, four or more people. Maybe it's a budget issue - audiobooks of a certain level of notoriety of a certain length get this certain amount of money to hire a voice actor of a certain level of skill for a certain amount of time, and no leeway.

The land is now dry and tan. There's large splotches of dark - some sort of plantlife. Where are we now, West Texas?

I'm one of the only people with their windows open. I'm on a plane of morlocks.

I'm amazed there's still agriculture out here. We've passed from prairie into out and out desert, but it's still divided into fields and I can just make out the tiny houses below.

The landscape is beautiful. This is what I wanted the window seat to see - the great desert of the southwest. There's long-dry rivers all through this land, and I briefly mistake the shadows for pockets of water. It's Martian here.

Plateaus and remarkable, and seemingly unlikely formations. There's everywhere here.

We fly over a swath of mountains and past a large canyon, and I think it's the Rockies and the Grand Canyon. I suspect I'm wrong, mainly about the latter. Don't have any map to check. We fly over a town of not more than a dozen buildings. Miles later we're over what passes for a city here. Less than a hundred buildings. The land gets greener around the mountains. The hills have twisting edges, and look like oak leaves extruding from the earth.


Phoenix sprawls like nothing I've seen before. I can't see where it ends through the thick, two-mile deep haze of smog and dust that looms on the horizon like some virtual fog of war. Orcs could come out of it at any moment. Sharp mountains, raw and unpolished from the depths of the Earth, come jutting up in the middle of this flat land.

The green, green grass they waste their precious water supply on is ugly from up high. It doesn't belong in this biome, and I feel like an offended god looking down upon it. I want to tear out of the side of the plane and bring divine wrath upon them; to see them on their knees staring up into the unforgiving sun as their florescent blue pools dry up around them.

There's a control tower that looks like someone smashed a lunar lander into a pillar. I keep trying to get a picture of it, but eventually give up, figuring someone will have posted a better one online. The only one I can find is small, but it's good enough to give you the gist:

We land in Phoenix's airport. I am tired and cramped and hungry, very hungry. I have only half a bottle of some banana-carrot-mango drink and a box of Mentos - but both my flights are on time, and I get no chance to buy food. As soon as I'm off one plane I'm shuffled into my next one.

The hills in the distance (there's some absolutely beautiful rock formations in Phoenix) have a cluster of about sixteen radio antennae on them. Is Phoenix a city of broadcast junkies?

The plane back to Portland is also a window seat for me, but it's even smaller. On the last flight I sat next to a (very broad shouldered) man with Southwestern dress. This flight, I find myself paying more attention to my companions. Why are you going to Portland? What business do you have there? Do you live there? Are you just changing to another flight? Are you worthy to land in My City? It's a curious paranoia that grips me now.

I'm sitting next to a guy right out of West Side Story. Latino chap (heavy accent when he speaks, too) with pinstripe jacket and a hefty crucifix hanging down to his stomach.

I eat the Mentos very self-consciously. I wouldn't, but I know I need something to sustain me through the flight, even if it's just straight sugar to burn.

We're given free drinks and food. I have another ginger ale. Both United and U.S. Airways serve a peculiar brand of it I've never seen before. Our food is a three-oz. package of cashews and some kind of sweet sesame sticks. I fall upon it like a beast, and find it excellent. It's such a tiny quantity of stuff - why does it seem so huge to me right now?

They're serving snack packs for three dollars each. Cheaper, and more food than the five-dollar meals on the other plane (which I did not deign to purchase, I thought I could get food at the airport). Shit - my thighs are pressed too tightly against the immobile armrests. I panic and freeze, not having the cognitive power or physical strength left to twist and get some money from my pocket. The stewardess passes quickly by, and never returns. I am doomed to digest my own juices for the rest of the flight.

We fly over what looks like a gigantic field of snow. I think we're in or near the Rockies.

The desert is even more amazing on the flight back. Splotches of rusty pink dot the tan landscape, and the mountains become even greater. Either we dipped lower for a ways or we've flown over the Rockies.

We fly over a very mighty series of canyons. My neighbor asks what I've been suspecting, if it's the Grand Canyon. Neither of us have any idea.

My eyes are getting too tired to read, or the complexities of the Democratic primary too much for my brain. One thing I remember is that I was struck by sneaking similarities between our current situation and then. Not perfect comparisons by any means, of course, but similar issues - a quagmire of a war, legalizing domestic espionage. In both cases, the Democratic party ends up so fractured and flaky it's downright useless.

I'm sick of the two-party system and I haven't even voted yet.

Somehow dozed off for I don't know how long. We're still over clouds now. What I have seen of Northern California (NoCal?) is pretty normal as far as aerial viewed landscapes are concerned. Still can't read. No room to get out laptop. I try to fall asleep again, but my chair renders it impossible. I can't lean it back at all, and it's just the right height to keep me from being able to rest my head. It's like the devil himself snuck in while I was unconscious and trimmed my chair so I wouldn't be able to get back to sleep.

Goddamn you aero-devil.

Goddamn you.


We come in on Portland not a moment too soon. When the cloud cover cleared enough we could see the forests of the Willamette Valley, I felt a love for evergreen forest I've never felt before.

It's magnificent to see Portland from the air. Marquam Hill stands out just as much as downtown - I forget just how downright huge it is.

We touch down in Portland and disembark with speedy relief. I find myself struggling to lurch up the slight slope as I emerge from the plane. Just what strange fatigue has come over me?

I stagger out into PDX and immediately find the bathroom. Base needs override everything else there. In the bathroom I encounter the water-saving toilet handle - press up for liquid waste, down for solid waste. Portland truly is the City of the Future.

I follow the arrows to baggage claim for what feels like a mile, and pass through a small city of shops and kiosks. There's actually a much better selection for souvenirs and merchandise than in the other airports - I'm almost tempted to buy some of it.

I pass by the kinetic sculptures and it occurs to me just how much more clean and overall pleasant our airport is compared to Logan, a truly major one. Again, City of the Future.

I consider stopping to buy food in the airport, but that would delay me from seeing my parents again, and there's more reasonably priced food outside the airport.

I understand the moving walkways now, and gladly stand on one until I'm delivered an eighth of a mile from where I started.

Stagger back through security, and back into Portland. I'm glad to be home, but oh damn am I tired.

1 responses:

Hi Monty! Dad showed me your blog. I'm glad you made it home in one piece. To answer your (sort of) question about audiobooks, yes they have ones narrated by multiple people! They're called "audio dramatizations." The expense is considerably more than just one or two narrators but big draw authors have enough clout often to get a real cast for their audiobooks. ...I know way too much about this. I like audiobooks. I lot. hmm... dorky?

I recently rediscovered an audio cassette I had when I was little--"Just So" stories that I always remembered as oddly creepy. I realized why. It was narrated by Jack Nicholson. WHY WOULD YOU HAVE HIM NARRATE CHILDREN'S STORIES. WHY.

Anyway... It was great to see you, if only for a short time. Thanks for lugging my stuff up lots of stairs!

Monday, August 20, 2007 at 11:18:00 PM PDT  

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