Sunday, March 17, 2013

Spring Break Day 1: The Begininning

            I left for Seattle today for Spring Break. Beantown, they call it, on account of all the coffee they grind here. They also have a Big Apple sculpture in the middle of downtown, which gives Seattle its other nickname, The Windy City. Note: I’m writing this part of the post on the plane and have never been here before, so any factual errors are beyond my control.
            Basically what I’m thinking for this week is a mini-travelogue. My reasoning is that 1. I can’t think of anything else to write and 2. I’ve never done one before and they seem easy. It has to be one of those things that’s harder than it sounds, right? Or else everyone’d be doing it. Show up, do things, write about it, profit. Of course, there’s one major problem- doing things. This is the first vacation I’ve ever been on that wasn’t pretty meticulously planned out, so I’m starting to get a bit terrified that I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow. It’s St. Patrick’s Day, so we’ll probably head to the UW campus and see if we can’t find ourselves some “Irish” friends.
            But that’s for tomorrow’s entry, if I get around to doing it. Today’s is about the journey, man. Suffice it to say, planes rule, and cars drool. I had to get to Chicago from my hometown, which is about a four and a half hour trip. Luckily, I had my main man and hetero life partner Pat to keep me company. Unluckily, the big man fell asleep about halfway there, as soon as I took over the driving. It is probably more for his benefit though, as Illinois drivers are pretty nonchalant about the whole speed limit thing. I think they believe for every lane in the road, you get to 2.5 mph faster than the speed limit. Two lane? I’ma go five over. Four? Ten over. Luckily, the way into Chicago is eight lanes after you hit Aurora, so we made great time at 20 over. Don’t look at me that way, person-who-is-probably-not-my-mom! Studies show conforming to traffic peer pressure is actually safer. It’s like I’m back in traffic high school!
"Illinois drivers... I HATE Illinois Drivers."
            We got to Chicago a good four hours before our flight was set to board, so we dicked around at my brother’s place for the time. Here’s a fun fact: Little kids are great, especially the ones I’m related to, but holy cow are they bad at telling stories. But look who’s talking, eh? Shut up, peanut gallery.
            From there it was the long and arduous journey to the airport. Fifteen minutes later, which is an arduous amount of time when you’re crammed between two car seats in the back of a sedan, we had made it. We got to the airport a responsible and ultimately-unnecessary hour and a half early before boarding; that’s what my Spring Breaks are made out of.
            For our preflight entertainment, I had Pokemon Black to play. I’ve had it probably three years and haven’t beaten it yet, so I thought this’d be a good chance. And if a cute girl happened to see me rockin’ some Pokemans and judge negatively, I had a back-up plan: Me The People, which is a hilarious book about re-writing the Constitution. So really either way, I was gonna come off pretty nerdy. But hey, if those anonymous ladies I’ll never see again can’t accept me for me, then that’s their loss, you know? I’m just gonna keep doing me, ya’ll.
            One thing I’ve noticed about airports: People are not rational actors. This includes me, by the way. In the gate waiting area (gwaiting area) you have comfortable seats, or you can get up and walk about to your content. What do we, as a populace, do? Stand up at the first chance we get to file into an uncomfortable aluminum tube. Where you can’t sit on one buttcheek without hitting elbows with someone else. Luckily, I file into the window seat and begin expectantly looking out at the tarmac.
            Half an hour later, we start taxiing. Okay, here’s a confession. I hardly ever get to fly. In my two decades I’ve only ever flown three directions. Most of my vacations are to family, who is all within driving distance. I say this because flying is still a friggin’ miracle to me and all you jaded business pros (and I know tons of you read this) may not feel the same way that I do, after all your frequent flyer milage. Plus, for some reason, flying puts me in a really verbose mood, so you’re going to have to deal with that. To be fair, “verbose” for me is a use of words other than just “awesome”.
            In addition to being my fourth direction flying, this was my first at night, and it’s an incredible thrill to see the lights of Chicago slowly shrink beneath us. The feeling of lifting off of the ground is amazing in itself, both in the fact that it’s physically possible and men thought of a way to do it, and the feeling of my stomach receding behind me as quickly as Chicago’s lights. That is, ‘til we merged into the layer of low-lying clouds. You know how when you’re a little kid, you’re infatuated with clouds? What they’re made of, why they float, and what flying through them would be like? Well I can answer all of those questions now. They’re made of water droplets, it’s boring to fly through them, and they float because they’re too boring to crash down to Earth.
            Flying through a cloud is an incredibly isolating time. The world has been shrunk by an incredible magnitude and now contains only you, the airplane, and the other hundred or so other passengers. Except for those in first class. They’re in their own world entirely. A cloud makes you doubt everything, led only by your inner ear to know you’re climbing higher and higher, ‘til you start to believe you’re got to be as high as this plane is going to go.
            But, oh! Breaking above the cloud layer made me literally giggle, a bigger smile on my face than I’m willing to admit. The sky, ink black, stretched infinitely above us, with a soft looking blanket below, lit up in hazy circles, marking major intersections. The light didn’t stretch much further than the clouds, as if the city was reading a book with a flashlight underneath their covers past bedtime. It was still funny to see, however, that around downtown, the clouds had broken to allow an incredible display to blaze through. Sure, the light was an ugly orange, but it was an oasis in a sea of muted light. Then the plane turned a wing and banked and my smile got even bigger while Pat began to read his book.
            I was still enamored with looking out the window even as we left the lights of Chicago behind. I implore airplanes to have a Google Maps-style display somewhere on each row, so that every time we came upon another city, I could read what I was looking at. Bigger cities stretched beneath, only their street lights strong enough to reach out of the darkness. The streets looked like the circulatory system of some great beast beneath us, heart pumping red cells of cars and pedestrians, too small for me to see. It blows my mind to think, that far beneath me, that miniscule speck of light is guiding a person on the ground. Hundreds. Thousands. All living their life, going about their business, and I will never know a single thing about them, nor they me. And in a blink, I’m over them. Back into the darkness where my only world is the plane.
            I enjoy that darkness too. Sure, it’s not as much fun to look at and imagine, but it’s still interesting. I wouldn’t even be able to see the end of our own wing if it weren’t for the bright light at the end of it. In between thoughts of writing this, I gaze out at it, and without any reference behind it, the light stretches into infinity, like Gatsby’s green beacon on East Egg.
            Told you I get verbose.
            There are pinpricks or light every once and awhile, if you look for them. Whether they’re farmhouse or small towns, or what, I don’t know. All I know is that my butt is really starting to hurt, and that we’ve probably got an hour left in the air as I write this. After that, a taxi ride to our hotel.
            Also, my mother was right. Totally should have brought Kleenex for this runny nose.
            I wish they would shut all of the cabin “house” lights off. I see more of my big dumb face in the window than what’s outside. I know they can’t, obviously, or people would somehow die on the way to the bathroom. The girl at the end of the three person row is just out cold onto her tray table, she would probably like it to be a little darker. With that posture, her back is going to need a doctor to get it into the upright and locked position! Heyo, I’ll be here all week, folks. Well, not literally, I’m going to Portland on Wednesday, so I’ll be here ‘til then.
            Turns out our hotel IS right within distance of the Space Needle. Fun fact: right where the good part of downtown ends? Go a block further and that’s our hotel. Pretty much perfect for college students. We took a walk around after we got her, around midnight. Found ourselves a 24 hour diner, and had myself a bagel sandwich and hashbrowns. At midnight. Served by a man with arm sleeve tattoos and a beanie, who looked like he was a cigarette break away from home.
            I think I’m going to like Seattle. 

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