Thursday, February 21, 2013

Up in the Air

 Last night I flew over craggy peaks scratched with ice and snow, flew toward the slim band of orange sunset girding the world until it disappeared into a cool, cloudy night. I crawled my way through customs, caught the last tram through the streets of Melbourne and spent the rest of the night curled up on the couch cushions of good ol’ 570/Apt.213 Swanston Street.

The familiarity of the Melbourne streets was strange and sudden. Disconcerted, I kept my head down as I bought Tim-Tams for my parents (will they survive the post?) and some lunch for me (budget airlines don’t provide in-flight service). I found my train, snailed my way through security, and got myself back up in the clouds where I now fly above the Outback.

Does that look like a desert to you??
It’s very red—movies set on Mars could be filmed here. But there are random circles of scrubby somethings and enormous patches of whitish something else that looks like a coastline of water frozen in the attitude of swirling over a nonexistent shore. Shadows of clouds are the main aberration in the redness, but long thin lines of paler red upset the uniformity as well—as if some bitchy goddess sharpened her nails and dragged them across the earth’s surface. The end result is the desert’s version of a Zen rock garden. I haven’t seen any roads yet.
Poor picture quality compliments of my airplane window.

Why do people insist on closing their windows when flying? I’m not saying I could rubberneck for the full eight hours of this flight, but how is everyone else so content to ignore the outside? Maybe they’ve all flown Melbourne to Singapore a hundred times before. Maybe they’ve seen the desert loads of times and the red and the clouds and the sheer inhospitableness of what’s below us has lost its magic. Maybe I’m the only one obsessed with clouds.

I keep waiting for plane flights to get old. Customs did, a long time ago. Check-in is ancient and layovers have been in the metaphorical grave since I this Traveling Nonsense began. But I suspect the actual flight will never lose its magic to me—that sickening swoop when the plane reluctantly lumbers into the air and the heady rush of inner disequilibrium as the ground pushes away. When the ascent levels for the first time, I still—still! every single plane flight!—imagine that this is it. The end. The engines will whine and then stop. The plane will stutter and, like a cartoon, whisper a final “Uh-oh” before toppling us back to whence we came.

But four hours later I’m still up in the air looking down at the desert, typing on my netbook trying to ignore a blurry episode of Malcolm in the Middle playing on the cabin screens. It’s difficult, because I’m pretty sure that’s a 90s version of NPH and everyone’s favorite Sacred Heart janitor yucking it up on screen. Clouds will overtake us soon and we’re about to leave Australia behind. A cooking show will soon replace Malcolm. Perhaps I’ll close my window for now—others are trying to sleep. I’ll open it in another hour or so, to see what comes next.

I hate filling out these cards mostly because my block-lettering sucks.

This is why I love my netbook.

"Travel is only glamorous in hindsight."

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