Posts Tagged ‘flight’

Flight Plan

4 May 2012

Dear J-

We found out today that flying with kids us both easier and harder than it looks. It was a surprisingly simple matter of getting to the right places early enough to not be rushed, but then it ended up being a monster task to get them to run all of the itchy feelings out of their system. Still I’m less mystified by the process than before and am reasonably confident that we could make it a little further next time.

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Next step: getting them through a long day and then a wedding followed by a reception. I’m surprised by how low the ceiling is on the rental car, though, so if I can make it through tomorrow without concussing myself I think we can do anything.

Mike

Flying Back

10 June 2011

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Dear J-

On the first flight I look up and we’re surrounded by what seems like hundreds of fresh-faced youngsters. From the shirts and lanyards they’re part of a people-to-people program and it’s a short matter of coaxing before the story spills out, one I’m sure they’ll be asked a million times before they arrive. High school kids gone abroad to live with other families — it’s not clear if it’s a full exchange or just a reward for the right kids. And right they are, polite and well-scrubbed and quietly excited to be on their way, BHM-DFW-LAX-HKG, miles and miles before they get their three weeks in China. They take over the plane by sheer numbers; everyone is sitting near one and the insatiable curiosity starts over for them, some of whom are flying for the first time, some who have never been off shore.

It makes my complaining about not hitting the right flight sound a lot whiny, doesn’t it? The evening flight out of Dallas is quiet, everyone taking the opportunity to nap or quietly read as we fly west into the sunset, those colors retreating even as we chase them. Before long now I’ll be home. A week has turned into a day and so quickly now just a matter of hours — at the moment we’re two hours from touching down and we can resume our separate lives, these strangers and me. I open my mouthhand my voice feels rusty from disuse, flat Midwestern accent replacing the Southern drawl I’ve been immersed in for days now. It doesn’t sound right and I still want to order my Co-Cola or Swee’Tea with mah meal, all y’all. In time those thoughts will disappear but the mind will take time to catch up with the body who has moved thousands of miles.

Mike

Fourteen Twenty-Eight

5 June 2011

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Dear J-

The first flight segment I’m behind a family of five, two girls spaced so closely together they could be twins and a boy that’s figgy’s age. Upon hearing about empty bellies the mom pulls out cheese sticks for everyone, the same ones we use to keep figgy fed and quiet. Great. Not two hours into this journey from home and I’m already missing my family. There is something to be said for the abdication of responsibility that takes place upon leaving home — it’s almost crippling, the amount of time you get to yourself — but the guilt of the added stress you’ve left behind more than makes up for it.

As it turns out I’m also seated in the middle seat of the five-abreast MD80 between a girl who looks barely old enoought to be in college and one of thechief instigators of the line crisis this morning, volubly grumbling at cutters and declaring that he’d do the same given half a chance. The scene is typically California cool: everyone is pleasant enough but wrapped up in their own little activity, reading or window watching or sleeping or zoning out gently as you’d expeft folks from Lotus Land to do. Ignoring you is a well-developed art with many devoted practicioners. I’m sure everyone would respond pleasantly enough if provoked but this is the reality of travel today, electronic devices a polite way of asking you to shut the hell up and can’t you see I’m busy or otherwise occupied?

We disconnect so readily when entering the airport, girding our loins to do battle with long lines and potential TSA molestation. We’ve come to expect that getting there is none of the fun but consider how close the world is today with transportation being cheap and pressure to drive it cheaper yet until it becomes a prison for your time. No amenities, no joy, no fun willbe had until you get there: is that really what we want? I know everyone has choices when thry fly, but we should remember where those take us.

Mike

Homeward Bound

11 March 2011

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Dear J-

I get to the check-in kiosk and there’s a new option: change your flight? The moment I impulsively click yes to see what’s available I realize just to what extent TV and the Amazing Race has ruined my life. Rather than stick to the original plan and cool my heels in Providence for a few hours I’m on a flight and smugly congratulating myself that it was fifty-five dollars well spent, getting out a little early and adding a stop but getting home a couple of hours early.

The original ticket called for me to travel through Baltimore to San Diego, one stop but not touching down until seven PM. Standby adds a stop in Phoenix. When I touch down in Baltimore they’re already taking a through count and I’m bumped off the plane. The agents scramble on my behalf while having to deal with an unceasing stream of lame questions, finally getting me back through Nashville instead and I sink back into my chair with as little grace as possible, relief overwhelming what adrenaline has propped up for the past hour. They take my bad at the door but at this point I’m just happy to be pointed in the right direction and I can finally remember the little squeal of glee I let out this morning realizing that I’d be home tonight.

Because that’s part of the fun in traveling. It’s great to find new places and walk down unfamiliar streets but knowing at the end of it all you get to put your head down in the usual places and kiss the right faces makes the return that much sweeter. When I finally got back to the hotel room in Providence the first thing I went looking for was a CVS, not because I needed the Coca-Cola and Doritos but because out was familiar. How many nights had I ridden the last bus of the night home to Jamaica Plain and stopped a little short just so I could make a meal of it, sorrow of solitude drowned with junk food? I did out again last night to remind me just how lucky I am, coming home to the chaos I’ve grown to miss.

Mike

Travel Day

6 March 2011

Dear J-

It’s too early to tell how the day is going to turn out but I’m willing to bet everything will turn out just as expected. Remember that the more dangerous part of my trip is going to be the drives and not the flight and things will be just fine.

On the way to Chicago I sit next to a loquacious midwesterner, Jim, and his unnamed girlfriend who sleeps through the entire three hour flight. The ice is broken over his breakfast, leftovers from Whole Foods, earning a smile from me and a quip that leads to the whole purpose of their trip to San Diego: reinvention. After sixteen years as a handyman he wants to return to school for acupuncture, coinciding with the girlfriend’s newly minted nursing credential. It’s a huge change from Akron and the way he lives now. I make the right encouraging noises and wish him luck, thinking privately that if he’s already come as far as making a visit then he’s already locked into the path, three cats or not. I never quite know how to respond to the dreamers, earnest souls taking life-changing journeys from all they know in order to follow their bliss, but I think those dreams need nourishment as flowers would. On the ground in Chicago I hurry to the next gate and bid them a hasty goodbye, squelching a sudden impulse to hand out contact information: I want to know how that story ends.

Later on the flight to Providence I’ve learned my lesson and so instead of trying to find a seat on the aisle I just grab the first available one which happens to be between two disinterested people. It’s not until the end of the flight that the guy pulls a purse out and hands it to the woman on the aisle that I realize that they’re together. The whole flight they haven’t said one word to each other let alone look at each other so I think it wasn’t unreasonable to believe that they weren’t together. It’s strange to think of two people who have either grown so far apart — or so comfortable with each other — that no words are needed. Life isn’t what you expect sometimes and it sometimes takes a bit of distance to have perspective on how lucky I’ve been.

Mike

Travel Jitters

2 March 2011

Dear J-

I always seem to think that there’s a thousand days before the next trip but it’s already upon me — I leave Sunday for Massachusetts and a whole week in the snow. The real question is what I need t brnig back from work in order to support what I’m going to be there for. So far I have a laptop request in process, and I need to print out an itinerary and hotel reservation so that I can have something to reference when all the batteries I’m carrying around have gone dead. There’s a lot of things I should have gotten but didn’t — I’m thinking wide-angle lens, smaller camera, phone, different bag — but it’s too late to fret about that now. Work with what you’ve got, not what you thought you needed.

It’s funny that I keep thinking about a better bag, as the one I’ve got has been doing fine for a year or so — it’s a tough beast, and certainly looks workmanlike. The best part is the tool compartment on the front, which provides lots of handy little pockets to stash everything without jumbling things together. In the dark it’s good to know exactly where everything is and stays. The worst part is that as it’s not a bike-specific design, when it’s hanging off the bike just about everything inside is inaccessible except for my keys, which makes it pretty useless. The answer would be pretty simple — get a Klickfix bar and attach it to the back, and get a rain cover too — except that I’m too lazy or busy to do that surgery. And it’s cheaper to keep looking at other bags and think that they’ll be perfect next too.

With any luck the drive in from Providence shouldn’t be too bad, though that’s one aspect of East Coast life I never got to try — I need to remember how compact distances are there. When I went to Alabama last year it was an hour from the airport to the hotel; that same time would take me through most of Connecticut or into Boston. I’m looking forward to the trip not because it’s a chance at a change but also for going back to New England and all it implies, gruff folks and wintry stares. Life in the air isn’t perfect and I’m going to miss the crazy that happens every night but it should be a nice change from the same old San Diego, which I’m sure I’ll miss within a few minutes of climbing into the air.

Mike

Demand Recount

3 October 2009

Dear J-

It’s almost as though there’s a short checklist of things to do before the weekend is over in order to call it complete. We went to Sea World (theme park/tourist attraction, check) after heading out for breakfast (double check) and saw animals in various cute poses (on the list), throw a tantrum (several — dragging her away from the Forbidden Reef manta ray pool, explaining that the rides were not yet open for business), had lunch and dessert (yup), and watched a movie (mostly the Pixar repertoire now) before driving down that steep slope into sleep.

There’s a full moon tonight, which has traditionally been associated with lunacy and strange happenings. In some ways it’s no ordinary weekend — we have the Blue Angels passing over the house as part of the first-weekend-in-October Miramar Air Show; because of the hours I feel like I’m getting a late start on things and an early exit too. If we hold to a strict 28-day cycle, that means four weeks from now — Halloween — the moon should be full again; we should also be switching back to a more normal schedule with two full weekend days.

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All I really know is that so long as I can recount today I’ll be able to forge through the next four weeks on cruise control. We tick off our list not by rote or grudgingly, but at a roaring pace, exuberance as we growl in each other’s faces to pump up our excitement. So count them down with me. Four. Three. Two. One, ready steady go.

Mike

Pilot Philosopher

30 September 2009

Dear J-

Two of my favorite authors are Roald Dahl and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry; both had success with children’s stories, and that’s how I got my first experience with them, in fact. Beyond that, though, both were pilots; anyone who’s read about the golden age of flight, those first few years, will tell you that those pioneers were nearly all on their own. Think about it — crude machines barely able to pick up their own weight, let alone passengers; lone wolves daring to touch the sky and push the limits of imagination. Wright, Blériot, Lindbergh, Earhart — iconic names etched under solo silhouettes.

I like to imagine that the nature of the machine encouraged philosopher-pilots realizing their dreams to soar amongst birds and clouds; long hours in the cockpit with nothing but instruments and thoughts surrounding and permeating the atmosphere. It doesn’t work for space exploration, which requires pots of gold, whole armies of support, and often, buddies to fly with. There are no shoestring space programs, no backyard spacecraft hobbyists; astronaut may be an aspiration but it isn’t something that most of us could see doing, while everyone knows a pilot or two.

Perhaps the pool of aeronauts is larger, so it’s natural that you’d find some good authors. But perhaps we find it easier to identify heroes amongst ourselves and folks we can relate to, not just in dreams and shadows.

Mike

Drastic Steps

6 October 2008

Dear J-

We take drastic steps when we believe that we’re in peril — the fight or flight reaction.  The rumors you hear never seem to sound quite so urgent until they start talking about those things close to you — family, work, life.  You hear and you don’t want to believe, you don’t want to get involved, but most of the time it’s already too late, isn’t it?  The anecdote that keeps running through my head is that you never hear the bullet that hits you:  as they’re traveling faster than sound, you’re shot before you hear the shot.

We spend time worrying about things we can’t change, though, instead of doing what we can, where we can.  I remind you that all the extra time, all the extra hours spent in the paralysis of indecision could be spent chipping away.  Journey of a thousand miles, single step, you know.  A life lived a minute at a time, hour by hour, not looking too far forward, nor casting a backwards glance; is that really ideal, either?  Aren’t goals a form of looking at all the work you have in front of you?

Miles pass underfoot; time slips by and leaves us breathless in its wake.  Whether or not we choose to change, whether or not we continue to learn, the rules morph into something new.  Good enough changes day by day.  When do skills start to elude you?  What rungs on the ladder remain forever blocked?  Where do you decide your comfort zone goes this far and no further?

Can we continue, this world divided, this nation double-yoked end-to-end instead of side-by-side?  I’ve said before that the main reason I went East for school had to do with learning out of my depth, but it reinforced what we all have in common.  An essential humanity, a universal America, a belief and a hope that this can’t be the end, this isn’t the final, we can pull it around and succeed.  Are we realistic?

Mike


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