120,411

BEFORE – Visions of separate realities carbon pass-by entrapment: (“The next… October-bound train… will arrive in… three days.”) From my perspective, everything beyond the window plane appears to be rushing toward me with some degree of urgency, as though I were moderating a real-time game of Clue with a host of inanimate objects, each of them wishing a word with me in private about Col. Mustard.  Instead, they pass by at the last moment, fearful of some unspoken reprehension, palming off a succession of furtive notes; hastily scribbled requests to meet them “At the clock tower at eight…” “In the garden at midnight…” “At the place where we first met (illegible)…” I want see what happens when the batteries run down and the angels and asses rush in from the wings to take their bows.  Doors open, close. Lives board, exit — decide to take another train.  Size everyone up: the smiling, the scowling, the well fed, the poorly stimulated, all of them lining up for a seat on the Devil’s favorite shit wagon.  Talk soon. Travel sooner.  Love belongs in a jar where it can do no harm.

11MAR2012 – “This is the time, and this is the record of the time.”  Note to self: One, read up on the definition of turbulence, the effect of turbulence on aircraft with regard to the effect on jet engines v. propellers, and maybe a few paragraphs more on the jet stream.  Two, find out who makes the best pens around and then buy some.   A lot of some.   And three, get some new glasses, because these three elements all Voltron’d together are seriously impeding my ability to think with my fingers in the Here and Now, that being: cruising speed aboard a military C-130J enroute to St. John’s, Newfoundland, for the third time in as many months.

The first trip was a thrill; the concept was still new to me.  I took pains to over-accentuate mundane realities like train rides, and fictionalizing the reproachful looks of tired café waitresses who honestly had better things to do with their time than deal with the wild-eyed ways of a wayward and weird American giraffe.  But I had fun with it.

I wrote next to nothing about the second trip because I was distracted by the sheer scope and involvement of the mission (see also: herding cats, changing diapers on an octopus, nailing fried eggs to trees, changing tires on a moving car), but seeing as this trip is possibly my last hurrah — in a manner of speaking — I need to do this right.  Can’t imagine I’ll have much cause to return to this part of the world.  Buy the t-shirt, move on.

(Enough of this weird talk; let’s have some action while the fun lamp is lit.)

A long ride on a loud plane forces you into dealing with your own head.  You can squeeze away from this threat by immersing yourself in a good book; you can close your eyes and catch up on your wink quotient; or you can sit and stare out the window at the cocaine clouds and the dull blue and orange blurs that mark the last known position of the propellers as you calculate your monthly bills to the nth degree… until your resistance breaks down and you’re visited by the ghosts of your respective past, present and future.  Faces, facts and failures.  You can pray to a god who’s never there; ask yourself over and over if you left the gas on; struggle to recall if the cats have enough drinking water in their bowl…

The inside of a C-130J Hercules is a geometric blur of gunmetal grey smeared into something vaguely resembling a boiler room and an extremely tidy garage workshop.  Despite the modern contrivances, traveling in this manner puts you in close touch with the romanticism of WWII-era aviation like nothing else.  You’re surrounded on all sides by sheer cliffs of circuit breakers, breaker boxes, junctions, hoses, neatly coiled-and-accounted for wiring and objects that largely defy description.  The interior is deafening, hence your being shoved into a violent lake of mute contemplation.  The important “Oh, shit!” items are all brightly colored yellow or red and labeled in a large DON’T PANIC font.

To the uninitiated eye, this says that either maintenance onboard this aircraft occurs far more frequently than it does a commercial jet of the same size, or there is a need here for total mechanical transparency.  It’s my guess that most aircraft of this size and mission-configuration benefit from such a naked arrangement (versus having to gut the fancy panels each time in order effect repairs when something going sproing!); commercial maintenance crews probably aren’t very keen on Mr. and Mrs. America fat-fingering about with the buttons of such a complicated system.

Q: “Hey, what does this do?”

A: (Cause death.)

you’ve perished, and then not even.
You will only be fully understood after your sell-by date, after

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