Guess where I am? Yep. 500 miles per hours, the speed at which (according to John D. MacDonald) a .45 bullet travels.
Travel is always strange for me. Strange and delightful. Perhaps this is because airplanes are one of the only places where I see large groups of people reading books (albeit “airport books.”). I make my way down the aisle and I see people engrossed in paperbacks and hardbacks of all kinds. The guy next to me is reading Jim Gaffigan’s book on food. I saw somebody else reading The Goldfinch. There’s also lots of Jim Patterson and even a Tom Clancy. How is he still a thing?
The commonplace miracle of hurtling across the continent at 38,ooo feet is in itself a tired subject, done to death in thousands of comedy routines, movies and stories. Now we’ve gone after the rose-hazed past, too. Don Draper sipping an old fashioned out of a glass while smoking a cigarette in the first class section of a Boeing 707.
Yet it still fascinates me. My notebooks are full of entries jotted down while in an airport or on a plane. I remember the awkward telephones jammed into the headrests of planes, the handy credit card slot and the telescoping wire. You’ll never believe where I’m calling from! THE PLANE! Right?”
I’ve been at an impasse in my novel. Well, not actually an impasse. More like a dark road in a deep forest where I stopped and looked around and the living shit scared out of me. Unfamiliar territory, the breadcrumb trail behind me fast disappearing. And wouldn’t you know, deep in the guts of O’Hare at six o’clock on a Saturday morning I saw a glint of faraway daylight through the trees and started writing my way out. The path became illuminated and I remembered where I was going after all. Of course it is a first draft and maybe much of this will be trashed. I know that at the least it will be rewritten. But it’s movement.
Finally, I will leave you with a poem I wrote last year while on an airplane. I was doing a lot of traveling at the time. Hope you like it.
In And Out of Airplanes
The axles smoke uphill,
buckets of black slush sluiced judiciously
when the road turns steep
lest the animals balk
pulling harder against the traces
stop all together, strand the traveler
red faced and raging. The staved
bucket instead swings from a pintle
grease black, wrought and hammered iron
I touch the side of the jet
hunch into its narrow belly
nodding hello, eye the rows
breathe the cycled air stale.
Some magazine said three
out of four Americans believe
they will find their soul-mate
next to them on an airplane.
Maybe true if their souls lie
in wait, eager for the chance to jump,
hot grease on the griddle, spatters
pooling solid as they cool