Thursday, September 01, 2005

3 miles high

Its fun when there is another kid on the plane. The sixteen year old prep school girl sitting next to me didn't seem to care. She was more interested in writing in her journal and listening to Coldplay on her ipod. "Coldplay is just dumbed down Radiohead." according to Sasha. I don't really give a damn. Theses days I'm listening to south-east Asian working class pop. The saddest music ever written, with the exception of real American blues.

The other kid was a forty year old Marine. He had been in the first Gulf War. He was coming back from a two year contracting gig in Cambodia. We met in the 'problem' line at the airport in Bangkok. My ticket didn't match what was in the computer and this was blowing this Asian female supervisor's tiny mind.
"I didn't change it in Bangkok. My travel agent changed it in New York. I sent her an email and she changed it or do you think I somehow hacked into your system?"
You would think they had never even heard of the 21st century.

There was also a pale white guy who looked and postured like a mortician from the 1950's. It turned out that he was a forensic scientist. He had been working in Phuket non-stop since December. His visa had expired and these morons would not cut him any slack. He and his team had invented a portable battery operated dental scanner. I asked him why it was so important to identify the piles of Tsunami victims currently in cold storage. Why not just bury them and let them be? He said that a lot of people down there were captains of industry on vacation. The heirs didn't want to wait seven years to probate a will. Besides, he said, there was a lot of valuable science coming out of the investigation.

"Like what?"
"We have determined that there are genetic markers that differentiate Christians from Buddhists from Muslims."
"Great. That will be really useful in the coming great slaughter."
"We also have conclusively linked the Cambodian race to the Incas."
That was something. I had heard theories like that before on TV. Usually they showed a picture of Machu Pichu, Angkor Wat and a spaceship. Now it was a fact.

The longest leg was from Taipei to Seattle. The prep school girl put her blanket over her head. We ate. I watched Motorcycle Diaries and I Love Huckabees on my portable DVD player until the battery gave out. The stewardess let me charge the battery on the oven but it was gonna take a while.

In Seattle we deplaned while the crew changed and they cleaned up. I ran into the Marine again at the gate. He told me that he had one of those red passports you see in movies. He worked on high security construction projects for the US. These were boom times for him. Washington was rebuilding embassies all over the world.

The plane took off for New York. We circled past Mt Rainer. To the left and right you could clearly see Mt. Baker and Mt St. Helen with her head cleanly blown off. I pointed it out to the prep school girl and she made a face and put her blanket back over her head. Then I spotted the marine. He had his face plastered to the window just like me. We were traveling at thirty two thousand feet going six hundred miles per hour and there was not a single cloud in sight. Every available one had been summoned to New Orleans for the destruction there.

The plane was half empty now. I walked around and stretched a bit. Then I sat down next to the Marine.
"Can you believe this was the leg they were trying to keep me off of?" We both laughed. I switched on the flight monitor and for the next four hours we played like a den of Weeblos. You could see everything. You could see the Snake river, the plateau of Idaho, the Great Divide. We were running away from the sun and soon it passed from a crimson slash to black. The stars twinkled above blended with the horizon and then met with the dots of light from cities and towns below. I glanced at the monitor then back out the tiny portal.
"Hey look. I bet that's Minneapolis." Sure enough it was. Laid out below us a grid of yellow and white lights." We passed over Milwaukee on the shore of Lake Michigan. Below it we could see the great city of Chicago where the lake curved inward. We saw Lake Huron and the isthmus where Detroit was wed with the Canadian city of Windsor. We saw Lake Huron with Cleveland on it's shore.

As we headed deeper east cities and towns came on and disappeared too fast for us to ID. Soon we were circling Newark. I had been traveling now for 26 hours. Most everybody else was asleep. The only city I didn't see was New York. But that was OK. I was going there.