April 6, 2009

California, Part II

Was it the bourbon or the feel good vibes of Virgin that did the job? While my stomach just entered my mouth when we took off, and I am clutching my open phone with a picture of Annie and Tilda on it for support, things are progressing smoothly. I don’t know if the fear comes from wishing I could control the outcome of this flight, or from knowing that I can’t.

For the next five hours my plan is to somehow limit the amount of times I picture the plane breaking up over the heartland and fireballing into a field somewhere. This works for the first hour or so, because I am absorbed in that Iceland article. Elves, really? Now though, the turbulence has started. I think I need something a bit more distracting. I attempt to turn on the television and find that mine doesn’t work. This always seems to happen to me on flights. I don’t feel like listening to music yet, so I fiddle with the fancy seatback system that Virgin uses. Most of it is useless or inactive. It basically amounts to various attempts to get me to buy shit. Without TV, I end up engrossed in the flight map that has kindly been provided for us by those nerds over at Google.

A little red version of our plane sails across America. I watch towns that I will never visit pass cartoonishly beneath me. Chillicoth, Ohio would be a nice place to die. I jot down a quick note to pay a visit if I make it through this.

With my Iceland article (and other financial gloom-and-doom) out of the way, it is time to put on my headphones and settle in. We are less than halfway there. Oh, and still no visit to the bathroom. I am too embarrassed.

I have been on too many flights this year already. Consequently, I have developed a bit of a music routine. My iPod has 83 Death Cab for Cutie songs on it and I play them on shuffle hoping to hear some of my favorites before we crash. Invariably, I skip half of them out of sheer nerves. The best part about this routine is that most Death Cab (I hate this shortened moniker by the way, and will never again employ it) songs are either crazy pick me ups like Long Division...

crazy downers like I Will Follow You Into The Dark...

Love of mine. Someday you will die, but I’ll be close behind. I’ll follow you into the dark.” You may not be an emotional mess like me, but this song better speak to you. Otherwise, we can’t sit next to each other on any future flights. There is no way I can comfort you if your heart is that dense. Anyway, the Death Cab for Cutie catalog lasts about two hours—it’s technically five and a half long—with me frantically skipping the songs that don’t either depress or thrill me.

Unfortunately, it’s time to use the bathroom. I make my way to the back of the plane, where things sway a bit too much for my liking, and wait in line. Of course, who is sitting right outside the door reading a magazine? She gives me a knowing nod when we make eye contact and small talk ensues about life on the West Coast. I find myself biting my tongue when I want to mention my planned trip to In-N-Out Burger. In a minute, it is my turn to enter and I make the executive decision to hold in the goods for LAX. Instead, I pee as fast as I ever have, thus sparing my pride and my acquaintance.

Back at my seat I can’t bring myself to check the time, or open the window, or my eyes, so I quickly find the next band that will help me cope. I settle on Jimmy Eat World. There is a moment in Table for Glasses, the opening track on their only truly great album, Clarity, in which my iPod starts to skip.

I have listened to this song for years now and, to this day, don’t know if the skipping is an aberration or part of the original recording. At this point it doesn’t matter. Like the faded sweatshirt I’m wearing, it gives me comfort.

Okay, I’m almost through this. As you might have guessed, when it comes to flying, my brain is not normal. Get this; I am not at all afraid of landing. As soon as we start our descent, I am completely relaxed. I can now bask in the knowledge that I am further west than I have ever been. California. Is there a person in this country who doesn’t get excited about the prospect of traveling west? I am a 49er, or a frontiersman in a wagon train, I am Lewis and Clark, all wrapped up into one nervous wreck of an explorer.

I can now shift gears into the celebratory portion of my musical journey too. I queue up songs that commemorate my having survived. Fortunately, both catalogues I have relied on contain strangely fitting tracks about crossing The United States.

We touch down in Los Angeles. Despite my first taste of smog, I breathe. Smog is onomatopoeia.

The excitement I feel is only slightly dampened by the hundred person line at Hertz. It takes almost an hour to sort out the rental car, but in that time I meet a wonderful woman from Bakersfield. Somehow it doesn’t surprise me at all that she and her husband once lived in Washington, DC. This is how the world works when you cheat death. Things are just enlightened a little. Once I am in the parking lot and the man shows me how to start my state-appropriate Prius, I declare out loud, “I am in California. I have to change my shoes.” I don’t even try to explain this to him. As he drives away, shaking his head in his golf cart/limo, I giddily shed my socks and slip into my Birkenstocks.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home