Flying to Vancouver

November 13, 2010


is this airforce 1?

So many people, the loud speakers bear their names appropriately. Here we all are, under this temporary roof. I felt nervous when I checked in. The West Jet waiting line is short, the airline desks to my left are packed, people lined up into a geometric maze of nylon gates standing, over burdened by too much luggage. In my line, there are only 4 people but it takes a long time for all of them. One man has this oversized weridly shaped container a sticker on it says : something or other Kitchen. It is about 3.5 feet high, made of two tubular structures of about 1.5 ft in diameter each with locks… Cooking pots? The man is negotiating with two male attendants who don’t seem to care. An Asian family of 5 is at the other computer terminal, it looks complicated but they are laughing loudly, carrying on, not a care in the world. At the third and fourth terminals people of whom I can only see the shoes and pant legs because of a cement structure look like they have been parked there for a long time if only from the body language of the feet and dropped hips.

The man ahead of me is elderly. He moves slowly, carefully, he looks fragile, he has a strange wind etched Nordic beauty, his blue eyes framed by white hair that reminds me of a snow drift. His skin is haled, fine, gracefully creased. He moves lightly and slowly to the counter, his papers in one hand pulling an orange and red european looking suitcase with the other. When he tries to push down the handle of his wheeled suitcase his hands tremble and don’t seem to have the strength to push it all the way down. His fingers are delicate, his bones look diminished, brittle. It makes me think how our lives seem to have the length of a quick intake and release of breath. In, then, pfft. Gone. The glory of youth until the fragility of old age then death.

My turn comes.

“thanks for waiting” the pretty female attendant says with an accent from Eastern Europe.

“No problems” I reply. She said that because the old man was so slow. No problems because in fact I loved watching him as it was like a slow dance. Plus I’m in no hurry, I have not been in one for months. Don’t intend to be in one any time soon.

“Any bags to check in?”

“No I’m keeping it simple.”

“Yes, you sure are…” she said that eying my small nylon back and small backpack. Simple. Minimalist. Light.

“It’s cold in here… the air conditioning…”

”You are from Canada and you find this cold???” she replies.

“Guess I’ve been here too long…” I reply not believing one word of it. Conversation, you know.

“Have a good flight” she cheers on. “You too.” I reply and immediately feel immensely stupid for answering so mindlessly…

I make my way to security. LAX is a large airport. My leather jacket is draped over my right shoulder. Got my backpack on, I pass the old man on my way to security. There is a long line of passengers awaiting the ritual. I stand in line. Move a few steps. Stand in line. I don’t like this but I must conform. In front of me is an arched structure, I believe Melanie called it the encounter “We always wanted to come here and have a martini.” that would actually be cool, next to the runway… see the planes take off, laugh share a good time as the sun shines…

sky and steel

The sun is heading down, the sky is pink and purple and blue. The white arches and structures around make a perfect counterpoint. It’s beautiful.


I don’t want to leave.

I really don’t want to leave. This strange, crazy land of impossibly large freeways, cars, infrastructure, humanity, deserts. I don’t want to leave it.

I think that maybe this is why I am nervous.

The first stop is “show your boarding pass and passport. The woman wears a blue uniform. Her hips are wide, her face is young, her hair pulled back. Her uniform is somewhat worn, she looks at the boarding pass, at the photo, shines a blue light on the passport, hands me the lot back .

“Thank you”

“Thank you”

I move on up the stairs, there is an escalator but I try to move my body as much as I can. We line up again between nylon belts. We are so well behaved. People exchange glances. Men look at women. Many have their heads bent over some sort of illuminated device, phone, camera, I Pods. A platinum blonde wearing bright red lipstick, a beret, large black sunglasses perched on a plastic surgerized nose looks fashionably bored while focusing on an I Phone.

I get to the security gate. Take my shoes off, unload my bags into 3 white plastic baskets. We all do. Funny how my minimalist pack suddenly looks like a lot of stuff… The man in front of me has his pants hanging loosely, so much so they look like they could fall off his lean body, his belt, shoes and jacket off. It makes us look like criminals. One basket for the laptop, one for the bag, the shoes, one for the clothes. I have to laugh looking at the line of people, unshod, waiting for their bags to go through the X ray machine, then waiting to go through the body scanner. Along the line there were some signs explaining what is seen via this scanner. The human body’s outline, some large blood vessels coursing the large parts of the body, the shape of breasts and genitals… On the signs the bodies are anonymous, fairly lean in a shapeless, inoffensive sort of way. And if you are shy… Whatcha gonna do? We don’t do anything. If you have any inhibitions about your body, too bad. We all conform to the rules for our safety.

I went through without a hitch. Off to Gate 28. I’m 2 hours early, but that’s OK. I would not want to have to go through this heavy passenger traffic and be late for my flight. Way too much stress that would be.

I stopped at the Route 66 restaurant, had a burger, road food, well it was awful. The servers were working it. “I like you” one said to me. Yeah right. On the walls they have all sorts of memorabilia and semi old antiques. License plates from Mississippi, Utah, Nevada, California… and more… Visions from my voyage flash in my mind. Flagstaff… Texas… the sun, the skies, the road, the sound of the engine. I’ve been there. I’ve seen these places… I don’t want to leave…

I feel strange here herded with the people. I’ll be in Vancouver in 2.5 hours. I would do that in … about 4 days. 3 if I pushed it. I would feel the heat, the cold, the hard ground, smell the gas while filling up, smell the sage and then gradually the essence of the evergreens as I’d progress towards Washington state.

Here I smell the jet fuel coming into the terminal. It’s noxious, poisonous aura. It’s so quiet. So many people, so quiet. Only a couple of kids make noise, the odd cough and the chatter or the airline workers among themselves.

Right now I am sitting on the ground near gate 28. I am on the ground because I am plugged into an AC outlet, so I can write this. The previous flight en route to St Paul has left. The crowd for the Vancouver flight trickles in. Mostly Asians.
I don’t want to leave.

A friend of mine on Facebook pointed out the fact that I have created a new reality for myself. It hit me. He is right. So this right now feels somewhat surreal.

It will complete a loop. Vancouver – 15800 miles of road – Vancouver.


One Response to “Flying to Vancouver”

  1. Al Says:

    You’re playing a show in Van.?

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