Monday, December 13, 2004

States of disaster, states of grace

There are little birds living in JFK Terminal 3. Little birds that forage for crumbs, flit around, and engage in courtship. I watched them while I ate a roll and drank some coffee. I felt a fool for saying "grand" as in Grand Old Duke of York, rather than "grand-e" as in grandee, when ordering my coffee. I guess it wasn't a faux pas on the scale of Dan Quayle's hernia-inducing "potatoe", but it made me feel kind of hopeless.

My roll was billed as roast beef and parmesan. It seemed to have about 3 pounds of tasteless meat packed into it. I threw it away.

I figured I'd read the book I'd bought, read it while I waited for my flight to Atlanta.

It was a collection of writings by Vladimir Nabokov called Vintage Nabokov. I read a few of the stories. They were utterly brilliant. The quality of his writing makes me want to not only never write another word, but to head out into the world and recover every word I've already written, bring them to a secluded spot, and destroy them utterly. I would then unlearn the alphabet, poke out my eyes, and remove my brain (besides the addition of dark glasses and a guide dog, would anyone notice the change?). Only then would I feel fit to resume my daily life.

Instead, I decided to stop reading. Ha! Power, indeed.

The woman who resolves all issues with snacks and sodas

I flew to Atlanta. The flight was very late. I tried asking the stewardess for some assistance, whether Delta Airlines would delay the flight I was hoping to connect to, what was standard practice, etc. She responded by supplying me with pretzels. Fifteen minutes later I tried again, stopping her as she strode by. This time she returned with a Coke. I tried following the logic of this woman - what would happen if I was lying there with a massive headwound? Would she bring me a cookie? If the plane exploded in mid-air, would I go to my grave with the words, "Would anyone like caw-fee?" ringing round my burning eardrums?

Nondescript Superstars

I looked around for someone interesting, someone I could immortalise here on Extreme Unction. There were no candidates. Perhaps I'd immortalise this flight as The Flight that was Strangely Full of Nondescript People. I toyed with an idea, like a kitten with a ball of wool. Perhaps all of these people were on their way to the World Nondescript Person World Championships, which this year were being held in Atlanta. The winner would be the person who made the least impression on the panel of distinguished judges. They would sit around conferring, desperately trying to remember the parade of non-entities who had shuffled by in beige swimwear, wearing blank expressions, answering questions from the compere in a barely audible monotone.

I tried to pick a winner from the people on the plane. I think I blacked out from the pressure of it all.

The Secret -> America is smaller than Luxembourg

We arrived in Atlanta. The entire journey had taken place in thick cloud. I felt cheated. I remembered an episode of Mission Impossible where a guy had been duped into believing he was flying in an aeroplane. In fact, the aeroplane was just a prop, and there was a screen outside playing film of clouds, and some secret agents were jiggling the plane every now and then to simulate turbulence.

Is this what was happening to me?

Was America tiny? Was America smaller than Luxembourg?

I had a vision of Atlanta airport being JFK again, freshly painted, of wandering outside to the same row of phones, of dialling 70 and getting through to the Ramada, the receptionist affecting a different accent when they recognised me as having called the previous night. I would arrive on the shuttle bus (finally), and there would be the receptionist, Mario, his name badge saying "Hector" now, his centre parting replaced with a devastating perm...

None of this happened.

I was told I'd missed my flight. I wandered to the point where my later flight would board from.

There were still no interesting people to look at. I found this baffling. I withdrew into a silent interior world of my own imagination, pondering the message being sent out by the conflicting colours of my shirt and my trousers (for my US readers, trousers = pants)...

The hour passed slowly. I boarded and headed for Memphis, my final destination.

Why did you come here?

I sat down next to a very tall man. Even before the flight had taken off, he was lolling back with his mouth open. I always seemed to end up sitting next to people like this, young men with burning ambition, raised on a diet of egg whites and raw meat, whose only goal in life is to loll their heads around on aeroplanes, drooling uncontrollably. I imagined the shame of being the first person to drown in mid-air, my lungs filled with stange saliva. Fancy having that news broken to my family...

"Sorry, Mr Kennedy, but it seems that the saliva was extra-thick, on account of the assailant's curious diet and accelerated metabolic rate..."
"Oh my God! Oh my God... tell me, was it a quick and painless death?"
"Sadly not, I'm afraid. The doctor's report mentioned the words "lingering" and "excruciating agony", which, in point of fact, is not just a word, but a phrase. But, of course, I'm wandering off into semantics here, Mr Kennedy, please forgive me..."
"Oh my God! Oh my God!... etc"
"My own theory is that the attacker believes himself to be a kind of boa constrictor, and the saliva was designed to soften up your son prior to ingesting him whole. I haven't yet seen the toxicology report, but I wouldn't be surprised if there was a poison, maybe strychnine, contained in the drool..."
My father wails in anguish.

Although such a scenario was far-fetched, the lolling monster made me understandably uneasy about falling asleep myself. I didn't want to wake up with huge streamers of drool connecting me to this guy's mouth. Or even worse, our heads could drift towards one another over the course of the flight and we wake up in the midst of guy-on-guy action. Some prospect.

More clouds.

I tried reading my book, my Nabokov book. It's really tough, really really tough, it's extremely tough... folks, it's impossible, frankly, to enjoy the most dazzling prose stylist of the 20th century when you have the All-American boy dribbling away while his head rolls back and forth in a winter sky. I put my book down.

Oh, yes, I was going to say why I'm going to Memphis.

To meet someone, of course.

Yes, there's been a parallel thread running through my life in recent times, something I didn't care to mention in the posts of Extreme Unction. I didn't want to upset something potentially good by warbling or speculating about what was happening, what may happen. But I'd met someone who excited me, who I thought could be my everything. Yes, yes, we met via the wonders of the internet, switched over to the phone and SMS, and frittered away small fortunes in transatlantic talk, prior to arranging to meet up.

So that's why I'm heading to Memphis, to meet Hannah.

Romantic stuff, look away if you can't stand it

I was concerned for the whereabouts of my luggage when I entered Memphis airport. With my flight having been delayed, who could say where my stuff might have gotten to by now. I asked a Delta Airlines employee for assistance, and he sent me to the Baggage Reclaim Office.

There was a fat woman there. She was unattractive. She looked as if she hauled bags of cement around construction sites in her spare time. I was hoping my bags were missing, looking at her, I could do with shouting at someone and she seemed perfect. She'd give me a good argument.

"Hi there, I was on an earlier flight, but it was delayed. I'm not sure if my baggage arrived before me..."
"Look over there," she said, motioning her head, "you see your things?"

I looked at a sad assemblage of bags in the corner. My stuff wasn't there.

"No."
"Then it's probably on the flight you arrived on, go check the baggage conveyor..."

I went and stood around, waiting for my bag. While I waited, I suddenly wondered if maybe Hannah could be somewhere nearby, it wasn't clear whether there was public access to this part of the airport.

I turned and looked around and there was Hannah. She looked so sweet. I waved.

Hannah immediately executed two distressed hops and disappeared behind a pillar.

That's just great, I thought. I come thousands of miles, only to discover that I'm so unappealing on first sight that the person I'd hoped to enchant with the full force of my charming personality (no sniggering at the back) has promptly gone into hiding.

I waited.

Hannah re-emerged.

I tried waving again, this time a little more anxiously.

Hannah bounced over.

Oh, my, what happened next?

I guess you'll just have to wait to find out...

2 Comments:

Blogger KarbonKountyMoos said...

There are sparrows living everywhere in the US, they take up residence in large buildings everywhere.

As for the grande - I'd have said it the same way & I'm from NY. Coffee snobs! Or should I say Cawfee? I don't pronounce it that way, thank goodness...

Sounds like you met Tom Drooley - did he hang his head down?

And Hannah, and your baggage?

The suspense is killing me...

4:18 PM  
Blogger kingfelix said...

I've had to have Tom Drooley reference explained to me, thanks for widening my cultural horizons.

I was going to write a proper follow-up to the baggage and Hannah situation, but no-one posted a comment to suggest that anyone on planet Earth was interested. For your files, let me say this:

my baggage showed up. i think the Cannabis leaf symbol printed on its side was a bad idea.

Hannah? We fell in love after a suitably goofy beginning...

12:19 AM  

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