26AUG09 – Another flight. Seems I find myself on more planes than trains or automobiles. A random thought runs through my mind as the stewardess does her pre-flight Tai chi at the front of the cabin; is there anyone in the modern world who doesn’t know how to fasten the seatbelt of a commercial airliner? “If the shit goes south, the butter bowl will fall from the ceiling. Huff from that little colostomy bag like it’s your job, until your sphincter relaxes and someone tells you everything is gonna be OK.”
The flight isn’t as crowded as I expected, but nothing helps when you’re eleventy feet tall. As we’re backing away from the terminal, an alarm sounds from the direction of the cockpit and the two events merge in my mind. I imagine the pilot with his right arm flung across the back of the co-pilot’s chair, looking over his shoulder as he eases this pig out the driveway. Heard it again as we were taxiing into position. It sounded for all the world like the parking brake had been left on. As we picked up speed, the entire aircraft began to shudder. Much more than I’m used to.
As this second set of events unfolded, I began wondering idly, as I often do, about the contents of my pockets. It only takes an instant to transmogrify the shit in your pockets into ‘personal effects’. Let’s say the plane goes down, and I don’t make it. It could happen. When and if it does, it’ll happen in one of two places; within the first fifteen minutes after take-off, or on our final approach. When they find me, I’ll be a battered and bleeding husk, possibly in pieces. The salvage crew will heave a section of the twisted fuselage aside and find me there, a look of horror and astonishment on my face. They’ll probably have to go through my pockets to get a positive ID. (Can’t rely on the passenger manifest in this instance.) Furthermore, someone will be elected to go to my apartment and gather my things, fisting all my memories into a series of cardboard boxes.
Sometimes I wonder what a forensic team would think of my obsessively tidy apartment, with the bath towels folded boot camp style, and the labels of all the cans in freakishly perfect alignment. (In these moments, I feel as though I were writing for a post-mortem audience, free to say any goddamn thing I choose because, excuse me, as I pointed out, I’m a statistic.) Who among my friends would get the unpleasant task of informing the rest of my address book?
This gives me a great idea: create an emergency text message, store it in snap-chip technology. If the plane is going down, simply break the capsule in half. Your final message will be automatically transmitted to a pre-determined list of receivers. I love you all, good-bye…
Enough of that loose talk. I think we’re gonna be OK. We’re past the fifteen minute mark, but I still can’t shake the idea that I’m writing this post-mortem. Henry Rollins, my ideal narrator: “I’ll be known only by the perceptions of others, and by the thoughts I’ve managed to capture on paper and in electronic form, a treasure trove of motor responses transformed into letters and words which attempted to capture the size and shapes of my firing neurons as they formed thoughts in the English language, a disease suffered by few billion monkeys on a distant spinning rock.”
We reach the twenty-minute marker and level out to the Thinking Place without incident, as if that were an event to herald. My basic thoughts are nothing original; they’ve been echoed by countless total strangers, a line of mental orators stretching into the distant yesterday, and they’ll no doubt be recycled for future generations.
I hate it when the pilot offers a special welcome to the smug motherfuckers seated in first class, right before they mention the complimentary beverages and those pathetic little bags of peanuts they give you, containing precisely eight nuts, and a little shake.
Thinking back to my preserved life again: stacks of dog-eared notebooks, thousands of photographs, boxes of books, rocks and coins from around the world, and boxes of just plain weird shit that prove I lived, that I went places. I drew breath, I loved, I rocked out with my cock out.
We are just shadows
of a duck flying across
a still moonlit pond.
Eyes closing in fatigue, the drink cart is halfway down the aisle. When I open them again, time has passed and I’m being given my options. “Ginger ale and a single peanut, please.” The stewardess has a pronounced Glaswegian accent and kind eyes. I can’t help smiling back at her.
Flying makes me feel like I’m a big kid in the back of a minivan, having left all my big boy rights back in the departure lounge. (All I need now is a sippy-cup and a White Russian, and I’ll be six-years-old all over again.) Planes remind me of immense waiting rooms, and of giant steel cocks fucking their way through the sky in a roaring mix of graceful science and blunt force physics, taken completely for granted by the ants below as we shit out an estimated 80,000 gallons of fuel at a go.
Fellow passengers busy themselves with puzzles and paperbacks. Do literacy and airline travel meet on a Venn diagram somewhere? Next item on my short attention span radar; the pattern in the carpet running down the center of the aisle. What would happen if you punched the pattern onto a roll of tin and fed it through a giant music box?
Weird moment – I can remember a summer many years ago when my skinny fingers could still fit into the opening of a beer can. My hands look so much older now. Listening to Porcupine Tree’s “Last Chance to Evacuate Planet Earth Before It Is Recycled”, and gazing idly out the window at the maze of heavenly cocaine rails superimposed across the landscape.
What goes on in the woods below me? Such beautiful, long legs of empty country road. Long ago, I wanted it all. These days, I’m working toward the promise of a cabin set deep in the woods, the company of a good woman at my side, and a gun in my hand to defend them both. Maybe a garden to grow my meals in, and a cold clean well to drink from. Is that too much to ask?
The pilot says we’ll be on the ground in ten minutes. By “on the ground”, I hope he means there’ll be tires and a runway involved.
I love you all, good-bye.